Ashley Pearce’s daughter was set to start kindergarten last year in Maryland’s Montgomery public school? She’s hesitant to uproot her daughter after making friends, and Pearce worries that the district might go entirely virtual again if there’s an uptick in .system. But when it became clear that the year would begin online, Pearce found a nearby Catholic school offering and switched. Now Pearce is grappling with a big question: Should her child return to the local
“It’s going to be fine if we stay where we are, and that stability for my family is probably how we will go.” As many parents across the U.S. weigh the same concerns, young children, including blanketing communities with yard signs and enlisting bus drivers to call parents.that lost enrollment during the pandemic are looking anxiously to the fall to see how many families stick with the education choices they made over the last year. To attract students, many districts have launched new efforts to connect with families with
Tanisha Nation left Sandra Guerrero, center, and Elena Mojica reached out to early signs that enrollment may not fully rebound, and the stakes are high. If registration does not recover, public schools that lose students eventually could see funding cuts, though pandemic relief money is boosting budgets for now.District families on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) There are
could also shift the demographics of America’s public schools. A first-of-its-kind analysis by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press found that race and ethnicity. Enrollment in preschool to 12th grade dropped by 2.6% across 41 states , and the decline was steepest among white students, whose registration fell more than 4%. White families’ decisions seemed especially swayed by whether their child’s public school offered in-person learning. Stat, es where more students were learning fully more significant declines among white students, the Chalkbeat/AP analysis found.
Meanwhile, the nation’s Hispanic student population saw the most significant shift from pre-pandemic trends, with data underscores the complicated task ahead for schools trying to reconnect with families who left public schools for different reasons and ended up with various alternatives.a significant change, given that Hispanic students had been the country’s fastest-growing student group. That could be tied to some of the disruptions Hispanic families experienced during the , including higher job losses and higher rates of death and hospitalization from COVID-19. The
“Districts might have this kind of ‘different strokes for different folks’ policy,” said Richard Welsh, an associate professor at New York University who’s studied student mobility. “‘We’re open for business, and we’re committed to in-person learning’ could be more targeted to white families.” On the flip side, Welsh said, “When you have districts giving tours about their safety protocols, those might be targeted more to their Black andwere hit harder by the pandemic. One such effort is underway in , where the primarily Latino school district saw enrollment drop just over 5%. Officials there project that enrollment will rise this but not to pre-pandemic levels.
District officials have hosted town halls where families can ask experts aboutto build trust with families worried about in-person learning. The district will also continue to . are working to connect with every family who left or did not enroll their child in preschool or kindergarten, whether by phone or with a home visit, Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. The district has even tasked bus drivers with calling families between routes to encourage them to register their children.
Nearly every student in the district is from a low-income family, and many got jobs to help their families weather the pandemic. And while Martinez is focused on the early grades, where enrollment dipped the most, he also has his eye on older students. He’s concerned that so many teens continued learning all spring remotely so they could continue to, though he understands the financial pressure. “It’s so easy for a 16- or 17-year-old to prioritize work over school,” he said. Specific pandemic schooling options, like putting young children in child care instead of kindergarten, will likely fall by the wayside. But some families may with private schools, especially if, like Pearce, they see them as a way to avoid uncertainty.
It remains unclear exactly how many year, according to data obtained by Chalkbeat and the AP. But in several others, including New York, Louisiana, Indiana, and Colorado, private school by 3% or more, indicating families didn’t switch en masse. Notably, it wasn’t just the wealthy who left public schools. There were significant enrollment declines among students from low-income families and more affluent ones in the 35 states that . Other families might continue to homeschool their children shot up in the few states that tracked it. For example, homeschooling grew by more than 50% this in New York and Virginia, though it remained a relatively rare choice.absorbed. In some states that track it, like Delaware and New Hampshire, private school enrollment grew 5% or more this
Regardless, districts are ramping up their recruitment efforts, hoping to build on the slight upticks they saw over the last few months as in-person learning became more text messages and mailers and through community groups. They’ve been emphasizing the district’s plan to shrink class sizes this , which they see as a selling point for families who want more individual attention for their children and those with lingering fears about the coronavirus. The district assures families that it offers full-time in-person instruction and a virtual option.. In Spokane, Washington, fall, with the steepest declines among Asian, Black, and white students. District officials have been reaching out to families via
“We want to create as much predictability and try to mitigate a sense of unknown and fear, to the greatest extent possible,” Superintendent Adam Swinyard said, “and just let our families know that we’re ready and eager to be back.” Researchers who track student demographics are also watching closely to see who returns. By the fall, it will be more apparent if the enrollment shifts carry longer-term implications. Some districts already expect the .
In Denver, officials estimate that enrollment will drop by 6% in the coming years — a rate nearly doubles what was predicted before the pandemic. Declining birth rates and rising housingfamilies away are significant factors, but officials believe the pandemic exacerbated those losses, especially in the youngest grades. Kindergarten applications are down considerably for the upcoming school year. The district’s planning director, Sara Walsh, said the total decline could be “pretty significant.” But she hasn’t given up on a turnaround: “I am hoping that maybe all of a sudden tons of kids show up.”