NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Data from the state’s Public Education Department shows between 2019 and 2020, New Mexico saw a 12% decrease in the number of kindergartners enrolled in public schools. “Parents chose to keep kids home during the pandemic when things were up in the air and school was not happening the way parents and families became used to school happening. A lot of parents chose to keep kids home,” says Dennis Roch, President of the New Mexico Schools Superintendent Association.

In the state’s largest district, Albuquerque Public Schools saw a 7% decrease in overall enrollment and a 17% decrease in their kindergarten population last school year.

The district is anticipating a kindergarten population surge this fall. This is something APS Superintendent Scott Elder predicted during a legislative committee meeting last September. “The largest reductions have been at the pre-k and k-level and we believe that many families are taking what we’re calling a redshirt year. We could be looking at a kindergarten class of 150 percent of projection perhaps even higher,” Elder said.

Las Cruces schools also saw a dip in their kindergarten enrollment. They say their focus this summer is recruiting teachers. “We like to keep those class sizes small, not knowing what to expect coming into August we have ramped up our job fairs over the summer and we’ve really tried to reinforce our recruitment efforts so that we can, not only have enough kindergarten teachers for the next school year, but enough substitute teachers going into the next school year,” says Las Cruces Public Schools Spokesperson, Kelly Jameson.

Rio Rancho schools saw a 10% decrease in kindergarten students between the 2019-2020 school year. District officials say currently they have 470 kindergarten students enrolled and they expect that number to grow significantly over the next three months.

They say their new elementary schools can handle that capacity but they are also recruiting to ensure they have enough teachers. According to the PED, home school enrollments were up 40% last fall.