AIKEN --- As families seek ways to save money, the type of first-year education they want for their child seems to be one thing they aren't willing to sacrifice.
Parents in Aiken County begin registering pupils for kindergarten this month, and some private programs have seen an increase in enrollment.
Dana McElmurray, North Augusta First Baptist Church's weekday education director, has a waiting list of about 10 pupils and expects that to grow as fall approaches.
The same is true at South Aiken Presbyterian, where director Jeni Myers says enrollment is up more than usual.
"I suspect it's due to cutbacks happening in the school system, and it's scaring parents," Ms. Myers said.
The Aiken County Board of Education gave preliminary budget approval to an increase in elementary student-teacher ratios by three. Administrators say that even with the increase they are still below the state average. Class sizes, however, vary by school.
Kevin O'Gorman, Aiken County's associate superintendent for instruction, said he didn't expect kindergarten enrollment to increase because the numbers have historically fallen within the projected rates, which are based on year-to-year analysis and live birth rates in the county.
North Augusta parent Kristy Cook is preparing her 4-year-old son, Jeffrey, for kindergarten at North Augusta First Baptist this fall and said she started thinking about where she would want him to attend kindergarten when he was 2.
"We talked with other parents about where would prepare him academically for first grade, and I wanted to make sure it was worth me paying $160 a month or whatever it was going to cost," she said.
Mrs. Cook said she also liked the Christian-based curriculum and smaller classes, but she expects to move Jeffrey to public school for first grade.
Mrs. McElmurray said private kindergartens are also able to start children in pre-K programs and then into an established kindergarten class.
First Baptist's 2- and 3-year-old program added a five-day class for the coming year to accommodate increased demand.
Richmond County is expecting the same steady enrollment figures also, according to Louis Svehla, the public information director.
"We have two projected figures," Mr. Svehla said. "The first is 2,601, which is based on the weighted five-year average. The second is 2,708, which is based on the live birth rate."
Both figures fall within a suitable range from last year's kindergarten enrollment of 2,608 because teachers are available to take on a slight increase in enrollment, Mr. Svehla said.
Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Number of pupils enrolled in South Carolina and in Aiken and Richmond counties in recent school years.
|YEAR||S. CAROLINA||AIKEN CO.||RICHMOND CO.|
*Enrollment for this year is projected.
Sources: South Carolina Department of Education, Aiken County Board of Education, Richmond County Board of Education.