Jane Hudson and Pat Brown were the two most important teachers in my three kids’ lives. Mrs. Hudson taught kindergarten; Mrs. Brown, first grade. It was in those two classes that kids who went to Pleasant Hill Elementary School learned to listen and follow directions, get along with other kids, understand what school was all about, and, yes, begin learning to read, write and do math. All of those things are building blocks to being successful in school. The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 3.7 million 5-year-olds were expected to attend kindergarten in fall 2020. It’s possible that 450,000 5-year-olds had no exposure at all to kindergarten this school year, reports Valerie Bauerlein for the Wall Street Journal. A third of the students who did enroll in kindergarten attended in person full time, according to the Return to Learn Tracker. Nine percent of the nation’s kindergarteners only had remote classes; the rest were a hybrid between in-person and remote. Does it matter how 5-year-olds attended school this year or even whether they did? Most definitely. The time between 5 and 7 years old is when neural connections are firing most rapidly for higher-cognitive functions like problem-solving and reasoning, writes Bauerlein. Kindergarten “can’t be replicated even by the very best teachers in the virtual environment,” Whitney Oakley, chief academic officer for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools, told Bauerlein. A missed, delayed or low-quality kindergarten experience “could impact this generation of kids for their lifetime.”