Karen Rick is already excited about the school.
Last year, during the pandemic, she attended kindergarten at Mount Clemens Montessori School, but only because she was able to learn from her teacher face to face. If there had only been virtual lessons, her parents would have kept her at home.
“She appreciated. She had fun, ”said Karen’s father, Erik Rick of Mount Clemens, who served as chief petty officer in the United States Navy for 20 years before retiring. “The kids had to wear masks and follow other rules related to social distancing, but it actually went pretty well. They adapted very well and much faster than us adults.
But not all of the children were in school.
When coronavirus cases skyrocketed in March, tens of thousands of students disappeared from Michigan public schools.
Statewide, Michigan’s fall enrollment fell by 53,200 students, or 3.7%, according to unaudited enrollment data recently compiled by the state. That’s twice as many students as the state lost in 2009-10, the last year of the Great Recession, which was the biggest drop in over a decade.
Of the students lost in schools, 4,463 were in Macomb County. According to MI School Data, 126,679 students were enrolled in Macomb County schools in 2018-19. In 2019-2020, they were 124,910. The tally for the 2020-2021 school year was 120,464.
According to registration data compiled by Chalkbeat and the Associated Press, all but one of Macomb County’s public schools saw their enrollment drop in the past school year.
Richmond Community Schools, which offered both in-person and virtual learning, actually gained 24 students in 2020-2021.
Six Macomb County academies saw an increase.
• Anchor Bay School District
• Schools in the Armada region
• Central line public schools
• Chippewa Valley Schools
• Clintondale Community Schools
• Eastpointe public schools
• Fitzgerald Public Schools
• Fraser Public Schools
• Lake Shore Public Schools
• Lakeview Public Schools
• Public schools of Anse Creuse
2019-2020: 10 163
• New Haven Community Schools
• Richmond Community Schools
• Romeo community schools
• Roseville community schools
• South Lake Schools
• Utica community schools
2019-2020: 26 599
2020-2021: 25 672
• Van Dyke Public Schools
• Warren Consolidated Schools
2020-2021: 12 949
• Warren Woods Public Schools
Macomb County Academies:
Conner Creek Academy
Academy of Arts in the Woods
Mount Clemens Montessori
Rising Star Academy
2020-2021: 632 *
Michigan Academy of Mathematics and Sciences
2020-2021: 907 *
Macomb Montessori Academy
Academy of Grands Chênes
2020-2021: 770 *
Reach the Charter Academy
2020-2021: 623 *
2020-2021: 664 *
Detroit’s public school community district, the state’s largest, lost 2,719 students, or more than 5%, as of the October count. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said more students have since returned to the district, and he believes the district’s numbers will eventually return to pre-pandemic levels.
“They just didn’t go to school,” he said. “Now they are slowly coming back. “
Since the start of the school year, superintendents statewide have reported that enrollment is down. The new unverified student counts give the clearest picture of the declines to date.
The numbers are still preliminary, but with such a large overall drop, updated registration data is unlikely to significantly change the situation.
Most would agree that the numbers underscore the disruptive effect of the pandemic on the studies of thousands of students. Many parents did not want to expose their children to the coronavirus or did not want them to learn from a distance.
“I know a lot of families who were on waiting lists to enter private schools that offered in-person classes,” said Megan Blenkhorn of New Baltimore, a former teacher and member of the Mount Clemens Montessori School Board.
There were also parents who worked from home during the pandemic or were unemployed, which made home schooling possible.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, there were 45 registered / approved homeschooling sites in Macomb County and a total of 65 students were enrolled and enrolled in homeschooling.
Among the largest share of students who did not show up were kindergarten children, whose enrollments statewide fell 13,000, a drop more than twice as large as declines in the other years. Following a model that emerged nationwide this fall, many families have chosen to keep their young children in daycare or at home rather than trying to help their 5-year-old learn online.
In Detroit, preschools and first graders accounted for 75% of the decline in the city alone, according to Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, professor and researcher at Wayne State University.
“Some children will benefit from the one year delay in kindergarten, those who are a little younger and / or a little less ready to go to school. Many more won’t, ”State Superintendent Michael Rice said last spring. “Parents’ choice in a pandemic to wait a year until children can have a fuller, less choppy experience in public schools will serve some children in some schools and less well in others. schools. ”
In March, when the decline in enrollment was first reported by the Macomb Daily, Macomb Middle School District Superintendent Michael DeVault admitted the number of “lost” students was expected. “But the losses were pretty similar across the county. With families choosing home schooling, private schooling or other choices, combined with declining birth rates and student populations across the county, the numbers were doomed to go down anyway. . “
Back to normal
The good news has arrived this fall, all public schools in Macomb County will be offering in-person classes.
DeVault said preliminary comments on the districts are that they are also seeing an increase in enrollment, indicating that their kindergarten and first graders are returning.
Parents can also expect to see a lot of publicity from school districts looking to regain their enrollment numbers.
“We promote our district and our programs through our website, social media and most importantly word of mouth,” said Erik Edoff, director of public schools at L’Anse Creuse. “We were in person all school year last, and there were even fewer grade one grade 1 students than expected, but I think it’s going to bounce back this year. Each family’s perspective and reasons for sending or retaining their student are very personal and difficult to quantify. We aim to offer a variety of programs to meet the needs of families so that they can gain the best possible education.
Among the kindergarten teachers eager to see her little ones in person is Emily Jankowski from Eastpointe Community Schools.
“This will be my fourth year of teaching,” said Kindergarten teacher Crescentwood Elementary. “Because we offered face-to-face and virtual learning, our enrollment numbers were essentially the same as other years. “
But it will be good to see his class learn together rather than 17 in person and nine online.
“I’m delighted to have all of the kids back in class,” Jankowski said. “We become like a family, so it’s a good place for a child to take academic risks and grow as an individual. “
– The Associated Press contributed to this report