Colorado’s K-12 school enrollment has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to a report released Wednesday by the state Department of Education, as 1,174 fewer students enrolled. last fall compared to the previous year.
The drop in enrollment is small – less than 1% – compared to the first year of the public health crisis, but puts schools at risk of losing money and follows public schools in the state which lost more than 20,000 students during the 2020-21 school year.
“It can be a logistical challenge for districts that are staffed with larger numbers of students,” said Kate Bartlett, executive director of school district operations for the state Department of Education. “You reach a point of ‘how do we handle this?
There were 855,482 students enrolled in K-12 schools in October, down slightly from 856,656 students the previous year. By comparison, as of fall 2019, the state had 878,537 K-12 students, according to enrollment data.
There are several reasons for this decline, including the state’s declining birth rate; families leaving the state; and the fact that not all of the students who left for homeschooling last year have returned, Bartlett said.
Students who are enrolled in online classes through their public school due to the pandemic are still counted in district enrollment.
Colorado isn’t the only state to see public school enrollment decline, and even the nation’s largest districts are being affected, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to a recent NPR report.
Colorado’s largest school district, Denver Public Schools, saw K-12 enrollment decline by 172 to 88,889 students, according to enrollment data.
And Jeffco Public Schools has seen one of the biggest declines in enrollment, losing 1,615 students this year for a total of 78,473 K-12 students.
Overall, 115 of the state’s 178 school districts, such as School District 27J in Adams County and Harrison School District 2 in El Paso County, saw their enrollment increase this year, according to the press release.
Despite fewer K-12 students enrolled, Colorado saw 4,478 more children — a 17% increase — attend preschool last fall than in 2020. There were 30,894 children preschoolers in October, according to enrollment data.