Nov 28, 2020 - Health

U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists

Picture of a student being walked to class
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Public schools across the country are seeing a drop in enrollment numbers as schools have shifted to remote and hybrid learning programs to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Times reports.

The state of play: Some parents are opting to keep their children at home or finding models that provide in-person coursework.

  • Glenn Koocher, head of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, told the NYT that some parents are enrolling their children in charter, private and parochial schools as an alternative.
  • Private schools are seeing increases in registration, as they started the academic year with in-person instruction, per NYT.

By the numbers:

  • In Massachusetts, public school enrollment dropped by nearly 4% this fall, losing more than 37,000 students, the Boston Globe writes.
  • New York public schools lost 31,000 students compared with last year, according to Chalkbeat.
  • Virginia’s Fairfax County lost over 8,700 students since last year, while Maryland’s Montgomery County decreased enrollment by 3,700 students, according to preliminary figures cited by the Washington Post.
  • In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Orange County were down by 11,000 and 8,000 students, respectively, in October, NPR reports.
  • Wisconsin public school enrollment dropped by 3%, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

What they're saying: "We attribute a lot of this to the pandemic," Karl Streaker, director of student services at Carroll County Public Schools in Maryland — which saw a drop of 777 students — told the Baltimore Sun. "We have experienced declining enrollment in Carroll County before, but I think the rate of this decline in such a short period … is not consistent with anything we experienced."

  • "As our nation continues to fight the spread of COVID-19, states across the country are seeing changes in K–12 enrollment as families make decisions about the safest and most effective learning environments for their children," Chris Reykdal, Washington state's superintendent of public instruction, told NPR.
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