Enrollment in Colorado’s K-12 schools has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels as 1,174 fewer students enrolled last fall compared to the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.
The decline in enrollment is small – less than 1% – compared to the first year of the public health crisis, but places schools at risk of losing money and comes on the heels of the state’s public schools losing more than 20,000 students during the 2020-21 school year.
“It can be logistically challenging for districts that are staffed for higher numbers of students,” said Kate Bartlett, executive director of school district operations for the state’s education department. “You reach a point of “how do we manage this?”
There were 855,482 students enrolled in K-12 schools in October, which is down slightly from 856,656 students the previous year. By comparison, in fall 2019 the state had 878,537 K-12 students, according to the enrollment data.
There are multiple reasons for the decline, including the state’s declining birthrate; families moving out of state; and the fact that not all of the students who left last year for homeschool have returned, Bartlett said.
Students who are enrolled in online classes via their public school because of the pandemic are still counted in the district’s enrollment numbers.
Colorado is not the only state seeing public school enrollment declining and even the nation’s largest districts are being hit, including in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, according to a recent report by NPR.
Colorado’s largest school district, Denver Public Schools, saw enrollment in preschool through 12th grade decline by 172 people to 88,889 students, according to the enrollment data.
And Jeffco Public Schools saw one of the largest declines in enrollment, losing 1,615 students this year for a total of 78,473 students in preschool through 12th grade.
Overall, 115 of the state’s 178 school districts, such as School District 27J in Adams County and Harrison 2 School District in El Paso County, saw enrollment increase this year, according to the news release.
Despite fewer K-12 students enrolled, Colorado saw 4,478 more children – a 17% increase – attending preschool last fall than in 2020. There were 30,894 preschoolers in October, according to the enrollment data.
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