Colorado’s public schools continued to lose students last fall, according to new data from the state Department of Education that shows elementaries aren’t the only schools bearing the brunt of the enrollment crisis: middle schools also are teaching fewer children.
Overall enrollment in preschool through 12th grade fell by 3,253 students this academic year, and while the drop is small — less than 1% — it represents a multi-year decline that began in 2020. The drop was most noticeable in kindergarten and middle school grades, which fell 3.82% and 2.24% respectively, according to the department.
“It makes sense this drop-off moves up (to middle schools),” said Kathy Schultz, dean of the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder, adding that, eventually, universities will feel the effects of falling K-12 enrollment.
Statewide, there were 883,264 students enrolled in preschool through 12th grade in October, which is down from 886,517 pupils in 2021, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Education.
Public school enrollment fell for the first time in decades in 2020 as Colorado lost almost 30,000 students during the first year of the pandemic. While it rebounded slightly last year, K-12 enrollment dropped by 1,174 students in 2021 when excluding preschoolers.
The pandemic temporarily pushed enrollment down, but the primary driver is demographic changes, Schultz said.
Declining enrollment, which is occurring across the country, has largely been attributed to falling birth rates and high housing costs that are pushing families from districts, including Denver Public Schools.
“It’s not just educators that can’t afford to live here,” said Rob Gould, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
Homeschool enrollment also dropped during the current academic year, with only 8,674 students counted in October. By comparison, 10,502 children were homeschooled in 2021, according to a news release.
The enrollment count released by the state on Wednesday is used to help determine funding for districts; schools receive less money when there are fewer students.
The state’s two largest districts — DPS and Jeffco Public Schools — already are reckoning with the financial consequences as both are facing budget deficits, meaning they are spending more money than they are bringing in.
Jeffco Public Schools decided it will shut down 16 elementary schools later this year before tackling secondary schools in the near future. DPS has — for now — paused its discussion of school closures, but the district forecasts that if nothing changes it will run a deficit at least through the 2025-26 fiscal year.
DPS lost about 1,000 students, bringing preschool through 12th-grade enrollment to 87,864 pupils. Jeffco Public Schools lost more than 1,300 students for a total of 77,078 pupils in preschool through 12th grade.
Get more Colorado news by signing up for our Mile High Roundup email newsletter.
Source: Read Full Article