Oklahoma public school enrollment increases, but not to pre-pandemic levels

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Oklahoma public schools have seen an increase in student enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year. (Screenshot)

Enrollment in Oklahoma’s 543 public school districts increased by 4,583 students for the 2021-22 school year, a partial recovery from last year’s decline in enrollment. Tulsa Public Schools, meanwhile, overtook Oklahoma City Public Schools to become the state’s largest district for the first time since 2013, though enrollment in both districts fell in the past. course of the past year.

According to data recently released by the State Department of Education, a total of 698,696 students are enrolled in public schools across the state for the current school year. In the 2020-2021 school year, K-12 enrollment decreased by 9,537 students. It was the first statewide drop in enrollment in more than a decade and has been widely blamed on the coronavirus pandemic. like some families have chosen to delay entry for their youngest students and others have chosen homeschooling, an option that has nearly tripled during the pandemic.

The latest numbers also show a reversal from last year’s move toward virtual charter schools, which saw enrollment skyrocket in the 2020-21 school year, while enrollment fell in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

Virtual charter schools Epic One-on-One and Epic Blended, for example, saw an enrollment increase of more than 110% last year, but this year Epic’s enrollment is down about 35%. . Epic One-on-One currently has 23,156 students enrolled, up from 35,731 last year, while Epic Blended currently has 15,178 students enrolled, up from 23,714 last year.

Declining enrollment is expected to result in a $60 million drop in state funding for the two schools and prompted Epic to begin “right sizing” operations in November.

Total enrollment is based on student numbers as of Oct. 1, 2021. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a statement that schools will continue to focus on putting implementation of Ready Together Oklahoma.an action plan to support students through the pandemic and beyond.

“For a large majority of students, learning in the classroom with their peers is vital,” Hofmeister said in his statement. “Despite the rise of omicron, schools are committed to closing learning gaps, supporting mental health and accelerating academic growth.”

Registrations in Tulsa and OKCPS down

Despite the overall increase in enrollment, the two largest school systems in the state, Tulsa Public Schools and OKCPS, still saw a drop in enrollment from last year.

OKCPS has 32,086 students enrolled for the current school year, while Tulsa Schools has 33,211 enrolled. In the 2020-21 school year, OKCPS had a total of 37,344 students and Tulsa Public Schools had 35,765.

However, some of Oklahoma’s other largest school districts, including Edmond, Moore, Broken Arrow, Putnam City, Norman, and Union Public Schools, each saw their student populations grow:

  • Edmond Public Schools grew from 23,496 to 25,481 students;
  • Moore Public Schools grew from 23,390 to 24,515 students;
  • Broken Arrow Public Schools grew from 18,619 to 19,527 students;
  • Schools in the town of Putnam grew from 17,829 to 18,287 students;
  • Public schools in Normandy went from 14,419 to 15,447 pupils;
  • Public schools in the Union have grown from 14,959 to 15,008 pupils.

Enrollment in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, which accounted for about 75% of last year’s decline, also increased, although by only a fraction of the previous decline.

In a statement to NonDoc, Oklahoma Education Association President Katherine Bishop said she believes the increase in student enrollment shows that parents view public education as their first choice.

“After two years of pandemic-induced virtual learning, families could have stayed home for their education, Bishop said. “Instead, they go back to their local schools. Parents, students and educators all want in-person instruction. That’s why it’s so important that we all do our part to keep schools open by doing all we can to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

In-person learning still disrupted by COVID-19

Despite enrollment trends showing a desire for students to resume in-person learning, school districts across the state continue to struggle with the effects of the pandemic. More than 200 districts temporarily closed or pivoted to remote learning earlier this semester due to staff and student absences.

Education Secretary Ryan Walters has drawn criticism from members of the education community after he posted on Twitter last week that “the first reaction should not be to close schools. It is the last resort. »

“I call on schools to use all of their available resources and administrative staff to cover classes to ensure that all of our students have an in-person instruction option,” Walters’ post said. “They should fulfill their obligation to educate our children in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee released a statement Thursday afternoon challenging Walters’ comments.

“Oklahoma parents are offended by recent comments from the Secretary of Education alleging that school leaders are not doing enough to keep children in the classroom,” the PLAC statement said. “We are tired of uninformed state officials who choose to attack rather than support and encourage our schools, educators and students.”

At a Tuesday press conference, Walters joined Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt in announcing an executive order allowing state employees to replace public schools that need staffing assistance.

Complete Oklahoma School Enrollment Data 2021-2022

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