Where have all the kindergartners gone? Heading into the final days of the annual Kindergarten Roundup, several Lodi schools are reporting a low turnout for kindergarten enrollment.
At Ellerth E. Larson Elementary School new kindergartners are barely trickling in, according to school clerk Karen Votaw.
"Usually we get 50 on the first day. We only got 15," she said. As of Monday, about 35 students had been enrolled to start kindergarten next school year.
"With that amount, we're just not sure if it's parents not getting on the ball and doing it," Votaw said. "Maybe we're just coming into another generation of parents."
Parents can technically enroll their children in school at any time up to the first day of school. But waiting can create a crunch time for schools, which have to scramble at the last minute to organize classes and secure teachers. Waiting to enroll increases the chances of classes being cut or the size of existing classes growing.
Catherine Pennington, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education for Lodi Unified School District, hasn't yet asked for specific numbers, but says her office will use this information to plan staffing for the next school year.
"We'll staff it tight and see how registration goes, and add as needed," she said. Next week, secretaries will send in their official roundup reports.
Jill Keefer has taught kindergarten at Larson since the school opened seven years ago, and is worried that low enrollment might mean moving to a new site.
"It does involve our job. If you've got low enrollment, that's one or two [fewer] teachers," she said. "People don't always realize that we do enrollment so early. If you don't have a kid in preschool, you might not know that it's time to register, and that people's jobs are depending on it."
New kindergarten enrollment in Galt is down 12 percent to date, and Superintendent Karen Schauer attributes to low number to a decrease in births based on the economy.
She points to an October 2011 Sacramento Bee article that reported California's birthrate tumbled last year to its lowest point since the Great Depression, with a decrease of 10 percent since 2007.
"The article cites trends that could also be impacting our kindergarten enrollment, including marriages down, foreclosures up, job openings scarce and kids being expensive," Schauer said.
If this decline takes place, it will result in less revenue which concerns the superintendent.
At this time, the district is projecting an overall K-8 decline of 112 students for 2012-13. This results in more than $500,000 less for the school district, according to Schauer.
But how do you get the word out to young parents that it's time for kindergarten registration?
Last year, kindergarten teachers at Larson went door to door to remind the neighborhood it was time to plan for the upcoming school year. If numbers don't improve, that might happen again.
There are a number of factors that could contribute to fluctuating enrollment numbers. Communities with newer homes attract younger families with more children. But as those children grow up, there are fewer little ones starting school in that attendance area, said Pennington.
She also said the economy over the last few years has made it hard to predict where and when families might move.
The trend continues at Woodbridge Elementary School, where secretary Stephanie Santigo said their 20 new students is a little low.
"People have a tendency to wait until the cut-off point. It's just the beginning. It's picking up," she said, adding that six parents had signed up their kids this morning.
Of course, what might be a great turnout for one school is still low numbers for another.
Kathy Martin is the secretary at Erma B. Reese Elementary School, where they have come to anticipate about 70 students enrolled by the second week of the roundup. Instead, their roster has not yet reached 60 students.
"I don't know if it's the age or what, but it's very quiet this year. Usually there's a rush on the first day," said Martin. The school needs about 87 new students to fill the three kindergarten classes it has planned.
Some schools are pleased to have enough students just to fill one classroom.
Eva Mackey, the clerk at Vinewood Elementary School, was glad to report 30 new kinders so far, adding that enrollment continues all year.
The school with the lowest current enrollment is not going to sweat it.
"During kinder roundup, [parents] don't come when they're supposed to," said Kate Meyers, secretary at Live Oak Elementary School, where only 13 students have enrolled so far.
A few schools are not anticipating a rush until summertime. It's normal for new parents of schoolchildren to forget about enrollment until the new school year starts.
School offices are closed from mid-June until two weeks before school begins.
At Needham Elementary School, new kids are still coming. Secretary Christina Herrera says the numbers are pretty average.
"A lot of parents don't think about it until June or July, then they pour in," Herrera said.
Beckman Elementary has enough classroom space for at least 100 kids, but only 42 are enrolled. Washington Elementary school has 25 students enrolled, but several have applied for intradistrict transfers.
Lakewoood, Lawrence, Borchardt and Nichols elementary schools all report about average numbers.
News-Sentinel staff writer Jennifer Bonnett contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.