How a pandemic public school exodus is impacting Ohio
Ohio's public school enrollment has declined nearly 3% since the start of the pandemic, with several Central Ohio districts experiencing above-average drops.
- More than half of the 19 Columbus-area districts shrunk, per a national survey by the American Enterprise Institute and the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College.
Why it matters: With school funding tied directly to enrollment, continued loss of students could have serious long-term consequences.
What's happening: Families frustrated with online learning and pandemic-related public school instability are likely pulling their students in favor of options such as charter schools, private schools or homeschooling, the AEI study suggests.
- Across the country, districts with the most remote classes lost 4.4% of their students, compared to a 1.1% drop for mostly in-person schools, Axios' Erin Doherty reports.
Zoom in: Whitehall had the largest local decline, with 7.8%. The district returned to fully in-person classes in April 2021, while most suburbs did so in March.
- Columbus, the last to return in fall 2021, had the second-highest drop at 6.8%.
The intrigue: A few burgeoning suburban districts bucked the trend and noticeably grew, including Licking Heights (4.7%), Pickerington (2.8%) and Olentangy (2.4%).
Between the lines: Kindergarten experienced the most instability, with many families "redshirting" 5-year-olds who met the age cutoff for the highly uncertain 2020-21 school year but weren't required to attend.
What they're saying: "This is pandemic fallout on a huge scale," Nat Malkus, AEI's deputy director of education policy, tells Axios. "Changing schools is a fundamental, life-altering decision for families, and these enrollment shifts represent millions of hard decisions."
What we're watching: The pandemic isn't over yet, so it's still too early to know if this is a blip on the radar or a permanent trend — especially in Columbus' suburbs, where enrollment has been booming for years.
📬 Parents, how are you feeling as this school year comes to a close? What are your expectations for the fall? We want to hear from you. Email [email protected].
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