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Voluntary pre-K program expected to see fewer students

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Enrollment in the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program is expected to drop by thousands of students this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new projections.

The program, which offers free prekindergarten education to 4-year-old children, now has an enrollment forecast for the 2020-2021 fiscal year that is “significantly lower” than what had been projected earlier, according to a report from a panel known as the Voluntary Prekindergarten Estimating Conference.

With the coronavirus beginning to hit the state in March, enrollment for the 2019-2020 fiscal year ended down 965 students when measured on what is known as a “full-time equivalent” basis.

In January, the panel projected that the program would have 159,799 students on a full-time equivalent basis in 2020-2021 but reduced that number to 144,053 last week, the report said.

Enrollment is projected to bounce back to a more-normal level in 2021-2022, though it will still be below earlier expectations.