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Pandemic impacts preschool enrollment, concerns for children's education

A teacher and a student in preschool (WICS)
A teacher and a student in preschool (WICS)
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Multiple preschools across Springfield are reporting a 50% drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While preschool is not required in the State of Illinois, it impacts early childhood education.

The reasons for not attending preschool right now are numerous: fear over catching COVID-19, parents already at home working, or with older children online learning so families would rather not pay for the service.

However, teachers fear these decisions now will impact your child later.

Preschool is both the educational and social foundation for children.

"It’s the first time a child makes that separation from parent or their family," said St. John's Lutheran Preschool Director of Education Melissa Roselle.

St. John’s Lutheran is providing online teaching tutorials, weekly packets for families, one-on-one in-person sessions, and are gradually bringing children back in-person.

“They definitely will be behind socially," Roselle said. "We are very afraid if they haven’t had that much interaction with other children or adults for seven, eight, 12 months, however long before they get back into preschool."

Concordia Lutheran Preschool teachers say they are already seeing gaps in education from the five-month shutdown last spring.

“Even using scissors and singing their ABC songs and doing the calendar and counting," Teacher Trudy Wise said. "We were kind of surprised that they lost a lot of that and we had to start over."

That’s why some parents have brought their students back for in-person learning at both schools, weighing the risk of COVID-19 with the reward of higher quality education.

“This has never happened before," Parent Brent Daily said. "It’s obviously new to everyone. We don’t know what the effects are going to be and I don’t think it’s going to be a positive effect on these children."

For the Daily family, they know preschool is about academics and socialization. Their daughter is an only child and they don’t want her to miss out.

“She was really affected by not having social interaction with other kids," Daily said. "One day, she came to me crying, saying she didn’t have any friends and it broke my heart. She needs the interaction with the other kids and learning at the same time."

Both preschools received funding from the state for supplies for in-person learning.

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