What has happened to Kindergarten enrollment?

Annika Dunlap, 5, learns math with her mom, Nahoko Dunlap, 39. The Dunlaps withdrew Annika from online kindergarten after one day. She now attends a private preschool near her home in California. Credit: Nahoko Dunlap

Five years old and already knowing her letters and basic subtraction, Annika Dunlap sat down in late August for her first day of kindergarten. Her mom helped her log in. Ninety minutes later, kindergarten was over for Annika. For good.

“We decided, this is not for a 5-year-old,” said her mom, Nahoko Dunlap, 39. “The teacher was great, and I was really hoping she would love her teacher, but asking a 5-year-old to sit in front of a computer for 90 minutes wasn’t ideal.”

After that one morning session, Dunlap, a scientist who grew up in Japan, withdrew Annika from kindergarten at her local public elementary school in Fremont, California. She and her husband, who works as a software engineer, felt that Annika’s social experience was more important than any academic progress she might make in remote kindergarten.

“In person, you are learning from each other, but when it comes to virtual school, you’re not having conversations, so I didn’t see many positives of virtual learning,” Dunlap said. “She learned to mute and unmute.”

Today Annika attends the Little Mud Puddles Learning Center, a private preschool, with her 3-year-old brother. Her mom works with her on phonics and reading in the evenings, and hopes she will be ready for first grade this fall. The tuition at Little Mud Puddles is $1,400 a month per child, which is typical for the Bay Area, but the Dunlaps get a discount for sending two children and pay $2,660 every month. It’s a stretch, as Nahoko Dunlap is working only part time while attending college to make a career change.

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