What parents need to know about Covid’s impact on kindergarten readiness

As New York’s rate of COVID infection drops and the percentage of vaccinated New Yorkers increases, state and city governments have released their plans to reopen. On the tails of Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that New York City will fully reopen on July 1, 2020, Broadway announced its curtains will rise up once again on September 14 – an affirming sign that life is coming back to the city.

While New Yorkers look forward to bustling sidewalks, honking horns, crowded transit, and restaurants filled to capacity, parents wonder how their children will adjust to the new normal of in-person school and activities. Existing research has shown that natural disasters and the disruption of a child’s routines have a negative impact on their development, so it’s not surprising that researchers at the University of Georgia are investigating the rate at which prekindergarten children can return to pre-pandemic levels of school readiness.

In a December 2020 USA Today article Kristen Bub, an associate professor in the University’s Mary Frances Early College of Education and principal investigator of the study, spoke about the pandemic’s effects on preschoolers, saying she expects certain developmental, behavioral, and emotional milestones that children normally develop in pre-K to be severely impacted by COVID-19.

Pre-K is a particularly vulnerable period for these prolonged absences. Young children are developing their trust of adults outside of the family. With COVID-19, they go to school one day, and then suddenly they never see their teacher in person again, resulting in a relationship that could be compromised.”

Prior to kindergarten and essential to the early childhood years from ages 2-4, children need to receive the critical cognitive and social stimulation experienced in a preschool setting. Those experiences are essential to healthy development and an easier transition to elementary school. The impact of the last 12 months without regular preschool, of hybrid classes, and little to no socialization with adults outside the family or other children their own age, combined with the deepening attachments to parents working remotely from home, can spell trouble leaving parents to wonder how their child will fare.

  • Will they meet the social and academic milestones expected for their age?
  • Are they prepared to transition to in-person preschool?
  • Will they have new or renewed separation anxiety?

Perhaps the most daunting question for parents of three and four-year-olds who have lost so much critical in-person school time and experiences is . . .

“Will my child be ready for kindergarten?

The answer? It depends. Experts note that delays in three and four-year-olds can be mitigated, and missed milestones can be achieved by entering or returning to preschool as soon as is safe and possible.

  • Safe: Forty percent of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, and 55% have received at least a first dose, but with approximately 80% of teachers vaccinated, adult populations in schools are among the most vaccinated in the city.
  • Possible: Most, if not all, New York City public and private schools will be open for in-person education in September, so a return to preschool is more than possible.

Preschools that offer a nurturing environment with supportive, highly qualified staff can do much to ensure young children catch up in all aspects of development, making them ‘kindergarten ready.’ Parents should do their own homework to find the schools that offer programs that will support their child’s ability to “catch up.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Vivan Mougios who specializes in neuropsychology and neuropsychological assessments in children says, “As a parent of a three-year-old, the pandemic has not only magnified the worry that important milestones have been missed or delayed, but that we are now burdened to make up for lost time.  Also a Montclare parent, Dr. Mougios continued, “Finding a preschool that is both eager and welcoming of this immense responsibility has been a blessing. Montclare seamlessly picked up where my son’s childhood left off. The nurturing environment and well-curated curriculum have given him the enrichment he’s craved and the parenting anxiety-relief I needed.”

A last note, in New York City’s unique educational environment, rich with public and independent options for preschool, ensuring placement in the kindergarten program that best fits your child’s personality and individual needs is as essential as readiness. In addition to staff and programming, schools with robust, proven, highly personalized exmissions programs, guided by experts on the city’s educational landscape and all its possibilities, can be the keys to proper placement and long-term success.