August 10, 2021

How going remote led to dramatic drops in public school students

Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The pandemic-driven shift to remote learning contributed significantly to a dramatic drop in public school enrollment last year, especially among the nation’s youngest learners.

As the nation reopens schools amid upticks in Covid infections, newly collected data from 70,000 schools across 33 states, details how parents, faced with remote schooling for their kindergarten children, opted not to enroll them in public schools.

In a normal year, public school enrollment usually goes up slightly. With the pandemic raging in the fall of 2020, public school enrollment dropped 2% with more than a million students who didn’t enroll in school either in person or online. The biggest group — more than 340,000 — were kindergartners, followed by students in grades one through three, data show.

The trend, reported for California this spring by EdSource, unfolded nationwide with at least 10,000 local public schools that lost the enrollment of 20% or more of their kindergartners, a New York Times analysis reveals.

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