INDIANAPOLIS – There is a significant drop in student enrollments this year and education experts say the pandemic is to blame. It is an issue that affects districts across the country and right here at home.
Sherry Holmes says navigating her children’s education over the past year has been an adjustable journey.
“My original plan was for them to stay home with me all the time,” said Holmes, a parent of children who attend Indianapolis public schools.
Holmes changed his mind as the pandemic continued after feeling his children were missing some of the experiences they would have from attending school. Her kindergarten and third grade student are now back in class.
But some seats remain empty.
“Every child is different,” added Holmes.
Data from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) shows a 1.3% statewide drop in enrollment in 1,900 public schools.
“Every student matters,” said Holly Lawson, assistant director of communications at IDOE, “This is the perspective of our schools, this is the perspective of the Department of Education. We care about every student and want to make sure that we provide them with the best opportunities and the best environment to be successful.
That’s 13,213 Indiana students not enrolled this year compared to last year. Broken down by grade, the figures show that younger students have been significantly affected. There was a 2.32% drop in students from grades one to six. That’s over 10,000 students.
Lawson attributed the total decline in enrollment to fewer families enrolling in kindergarten.
“At the kindergarten level, parents make the decision to maybe keep their kids at home for another year, maybe extend preschool, maybe a situation where they’re not comfortable … maybe they are homeschooling, ”Lawson explained.
Data shows that kindergarten enrollment has fallen by more than 7% in the state.
“We started virtually, so we know it probably had an impact on some families,” said Dr. Nathalie Henderson, Director of Schools, Indianapolis Public Schools.
Henderson thinks the barriers to technology and the disparities among students might have added to the challenge. It is worrying for her.
“Especially if we haven’t been able to find them,” said Henderson. “Where did they go?
Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) reported a loss of just under 2,500 students. A decrease in children in almost all classes according to the document provided by the IDOE.
“Like many other districts in the city, state and country, we have had a loss of enrollment,” said Henderson.
The Lawrence Township MSD has seen a drop of about 300 students which they attribute to the pandemic. In the schools in Southeast Hamilton, there is a difference of about 400 children.
Meanwhile, Center Grove community schools saw a small increase. School management says the growth has not been as great as we expected, but they suspect it may be because some parents are waiting a year to enroll their kindergarten students.
“Our funding is tied to our students,” said Henderson.
The number of registrations has a direct impact on school budgets. Although Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced a historic investment of nearly $ 2 billion in K-12 education. Henderson says tough decisions will have to be made if registrations don’t stabilize.
“I think we tend to try to keep them away from schools, don’t we, but at some point the pie gets too small, you might have to do that,” said Henderson.
This motivates IPS. As part of the “Finish Strong” initiative, teachers don’t just call home, they knock on doors and go out into neighborhoods to reconnect with families.
“I’m going to stand up for this for them,” said Ashley Thomas, “Because you never know what’s going on behind those doors.” As the organization’s regional director for Stand for Children Indiana, Thomas wants parents to know that it is normal to express oneself.
“Contact your child’s former teacher, the former principal, call the office of the school district you are in and don’t be embarrassed about anything you need to do for your babies,” Thomas added.
Because the return of children to class must be the goal.
“We have to do it all together,” said Holmes.
As for Indianapolis public schools, now that they have reverted to in-person learning, attendance is increasing. They set goals for themselves each month and celebrate those accomplishments with their students.
Here is an overview of the attendance data. According to IPS, these data are accumulated until April 9 for each of the years represented. The last bar is for the week of April 5-9 this year, when all schools (middle and high schools) have reverted to full-time in-person learning.
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