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Buffalo schools: where are 500 pre-K and kindergartners?

Attention Buffalo parents of 3- and 4-year olds: Register now for pre-K and kindergarten.

Less than a month away from the Sept. 6 start of the academic year, registration numbers are significantly down in Buffalo Public Schools from previous years, district officials say. The school district is 300 youngsters short of the projected 2,232 enrollment for pre-K and 200 students short of 3,100 slots available for kindergartners.

“Right now, I have classrooms minus kids,” said Jessica Sipes, supervisor of Elementary Education. “Parents aren’t registering kids. While we have all these classrooms planned, we won’t have kids in those classrooms if no one’s registered. It is so important that our city’s children attend school, especially in their foundational years.”

This is not the first time enrollment numbers have been low this time of the year.

“Last year, 300 students enrolled after Day One for pre-K. So 320 students missed Day One of learning rules and procedures and expectations,” Sipes said.

Enrollment projections, based on birth rate data from United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, are “pretty spot on,” Sipes said. “It’s just getting the word out.”

This year’s outreach efforts involved working with Say Yes Buffalo to distribute flyers in all of the organization’s summer camps. Registration information was posted on the school district’s and Mayor Byron W. Brown’s websites. And flyers were sent to community centers, libraries and churches on the East and West sides of the city, Sipes said.

One problem is a lack of awareness. Sometimes parents do not even realize there is a registration process. And Pre-K parents in particular do not realize the kids can be as young as 3 years old, Sipes said.

“I truly believe it’s a lack of awareness, especially when it comes to pre-K. It’s a lack of awareness that kids can go to school all day, get breakfast and lunch and picked up and dropped off,” she said.

If children start their educational career in pre-K, they will be much more successful in school because they will have the foundation skills that pre-K provides, Sipes said.

Many of the district’s kids are seeing books and learning social skills for the first time. Pre-K kids learn how to share with others, learn social and emotional skills and how to communicate what they are feeling so they do not resort to hitting someone in conflict.

“All of those skills transfer,” Sipes said. “For lifelong success, you’ve got pre-K. We’re teaching them letter identification. They need to know what numbers look like. They need to know how to count – all of the foundational skills that are additionally going to scaffold up to big things in high school and college.”

Children born in 2012 are eligible for pre-K, while children born in 2011 are eligible for kindergarten.

In addition, any age-appropriate student new to the district or returning from a private, charter or parochial school should register.

Parents can register children from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 33 Ash St. Go to www.buffaloschools.org for mandatory registration documents.

For more information call the district’s Central Registration Center at 816-3717.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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