Enrollment is “rapidly declining” at public schools in California

San Francisco (AP) —A California public school has seen a sharp drop in enrollment this year as a pandemic forced millions of people to enroll in online schools, according to data released Thursday.

The decline came as the state school district rushed to bring children back to the classroom, making California one of the slowest to reopen school in the country.

According to data from the California Department of Education, kindergarten-to-high school students have fallen by more than 160,000 this year, most of them at the kindergarten-to-high school level, for a total of 6 million.

This decline is by far the largest decline in the last few years and represents the clearest ever situation of the catastrophic pandemic damage to California’s public schools.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said, “Autumn enrollment annual snapshots show a sharp decline over the year as states and nations tackle a deadly pandemic that disrupts all aspects of public education. There are. “

The escape was led by white students, who make up only 22% of California’s public school population, but about half of the dropouts in 2020-21. This has the potential to widen the gap in California’s public education system.

California has the largest number of students in all states of the United States, with only about 6.2 million students in recent years. Over the past few years, driven by lower fertility rates, the number of students has declined from about 20,000 to 30,000 annually, and that rate was expected to continue.

When a pandemic broke out and Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of public schools in March 2020, no one expected the closure to continue.

Most public schools in California began this year with distance learning, and many public schools continued to do so until spring. Face-to-face lessons resumed this month in the state’s largest urban school district.

Among the worried parents who transferred to a private school was Aurora Ragel, the mother of San Diego County, who said distance education had put her seniors in high school into a downward spiral.

“She was really depressed with all the isolation that started when the school was closed,” Guel said.

Her 18-year-old daughter’s grades had dropped to the point where she failed in three classes. She lost motivation to enter college and did not leave the room for dinner with her family.

“We had to do something to get her out of this deep hole she had fallen into,” Guel said.

After transferring to a private Catholic school in October, her teenage spirit and her grades have improved. She has been accepted by college and looks forward to her prom, a milestone that many public schools have abolished. “She is doing very well now,” her mother said.

Public education supervisor Tony Thurmond called the numbers involved, but officials said he was optimistic that enrollment would recover as more schools resumed face-to-face learning. He said authorities worked with schools and families to understand why so many families left and how to bring them back.

Escapes from public schools have occurred nationwide. There are no national data on the decline in enrollment from 2020 to 2021, but according to an analysis of 33 states by the Chalkbeat nonprofit news agency dealing with education and the Associated Press published in December, the fall public K -12 enrollments have decreased by about 500,000. Compared to the previous year.

The number of students enrolled in California from 2020 to 2021 decreased by 2.6% from the previous year due to a combination of various factors.

Few California parents enroll their children in kindergarten, which explains the decline in 61,000 students and the largest decline in enrollment.

This may indicate that parents have postponed sending their children to kindergarten or enrolled in private schools, increasing the total enrollment by 20,000 (4%) year-on-year. did. Data also show that homeschooling surged in the fall, CDE said.

Some of California’s largest urban districts showed the greatest decline.

According to the CDE, the state’s largest unified school district in Los Angeles has reduced its enrollment by 22,000 (4%) to 575,000.

Data released Thursday was collected from all school districts in the state in October, and education officials say it’s too early to know if this trend has continued since then.

Year-end numbers are unknown for months, but the data helped explain how the pandemic disrupted public schools and raised concerns about funding the 1,000 school districts in California that are tied to staff. ..

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget calls for schools not to be punished for reduced enrollment, while advocates of low-income students, English learners, and caregivers’ children Seeking additional money for.

“Changes in registration affect funding and equity,” said Christopher Nellum, Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust-West, an educational equity advocacy body. “It only exacerbates problems that already existed.”

Nerm thinks strategically about how schools involve black and brown students who are more likely to spend a year on distance learning than white classmates who have moved to private schools or other learning options He said it was necessary.

These families, disproportionately attacked by the virus, are also more hesitant to return their children to the classroom when they resume. The school would also need to find a way to persuade the North Korean defectors in private schools to return, he said.

For parents like Jonathan Alloy in San Francisco, that would be the cause of the loss.

Alloy kept children aged 8 and 10 in distance education “pods” because classrooms remained closed, but recently decided to abandon the school district and city.

Alloy said he had lost confidence in the city’s school district. Get caught up in a scandalInternal conflicts and proceedings, including those filed by city lawyers because the district was unable to reopen school more quickly. San Francisco does not yet have a timetable to bring middle and high school students back to the classroom.

Coupled with San Francisco’s high living costs and more expensive private school tuition, Alloy is moving to Connecticut, close to his wife’s family.

“Leaving is just crushing,” he said.