School enrollment plummeted by 33,000 students across Tennessee amid pandemic

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About 33,000 fewer students enrolled in public schools in Tennessee this year, down nearly 3.5% from last year and reflecting national trends amid the pandemic.

The vast majority of the state’s 147 school systems experienced unusually large declines in the first 20 days of the school year, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of statewide enrollment data. Only 15 districts had more students than last year.

In contrast, Tennessee’s student body grew about 4% last school year.

Where are the students missing this year?

Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn believes some families have chosen to teach their children at home. Others have likely enrolled their children in private schools, she said, particularly in Memphis and Nashville, where districts have started the school year entirely online. But the biggest drop was in kindergarten enrollment.

“A number of parents have just decided to wait a year and put their students in kindergarten next year. It’s mostly the kids who just turned 5 very, very early – spring babies, so to speak, ”Schwinn said Tuesday.

The ministry did not provide a breakdown by grade level of enrollment numbers or details of home school or private school enrollment. But Schwinn said the state’s webpage with home schooling information was the third most visited site at some point this year.

Nationally, enrollment declines were expected as the American school suffered its biggest disruption in a century. Early figures show that kindergarten classes have taken a huge hit. In many neighborhoods, one in 10 kindergarten children did not show up.

This trend continued in Tennessee, where the first statewide figures were eagerly awaited. Enrollment in the first 20 days of an academic year is considered an important benchmark in projecting needs and resources for funding and staffing. Districts submit registration numbers to the state several times a year, and the first report is usually the lowest.

(To view listings for your district, scroll down to find our searchable and sortable list.)

The state’s total student population was 935,376, based on early data. All four urban school systems experienced significant declines.

Shelby County schools had 3,800 fewer students than last year – a drop of almost 4% – although enrollment has increased in recent weeks as students in Memphis prepare to return to school buildings in January.

Metropolitan Public Schools in Nashville lost about 3,800 students, or 5%. Knox County had 2,500 fewer students, a drop of 4%, while Hamilton County lost about 950 students, or 2%. These latter two districts offered both in-person and online learning options.

Even school systems that grow steadily and open new schools each year have shrunk in size this year, especially in the rapidly growing counties bordering Nashville. Williamson County school enrollment fell almost 4%, while Rutherford and Wilson County districts fell almost 3%.

The state’s school system for struggling schools, the Achievement School District, lost 15% of its students, accelerating a four-year decline. Almost all of the students in the Memphis and Nashville Public District started the year entirely online, although a few schools have given parents the option of sending their children to school buildings.

The losses also affected rural areas.

Richard City, a one-school district in Southeast Tennessee, saw the state’s largest percentage decline: 27% fewer students.

Superintendent Beth Webb attributed the drop to the start of the school year online and on time in early August, as neighboring districts pushed back their start dates after Labor Day and offered an in-person option. Richard City’s return to teaching in-person last month only lasted a week.

“I just didn’t have enough teachers and substitutes to continue, said Webb. Some middle and high school teachers have contracted COVID-19 and some have had to self-quarantine because a family member fell ill, leaving the small school with few options to fill in the gaps.

“It’s one headache after another,” she said.

Despite the pandemic, 15 school systems have started the school year with more students than last year.

Schools in Robertson County, north of Nashville, were the largest district in this category, increasing its enrollment by 13%.

Two small districts in the suburb of Shelby County also saw increases. Arlington rose nearly 1%, while Lakeland increased its numbers by about 2.5%.

Find out how your local district has performed in the table below.

Registration in the Tennessee District in the first 20 days

Piece 2020-21 Percentage of change
Piece 2020-21 Percentage of change
CITY RICHARD 157 -27.3%
SOUTH CARROLL 305 -8.8%
ETOWAH 308 -15.6%
Bells 356 4.0%
ALAMO 519 -10.2%
HOLLOW RK-BR 579 -4.5%
BRADFORD 587 4.8%
PICKETT COUNTY 631 1.4%
ROGERSVILLE 632 0.7%
NEWPORT 640 0.6%
VAN BUREN COUNTY 706 -1.2%
LAKE COUNTY 714 0.2%
DAYTON 733 -9.9%
LEXINGTON 795 -3.1%
CARROLL WEST 797 -9.7%
MOORE COUNTY 824 -4.5%
HANCOCK COUNTY 884 -3.0%
CLINTON 918 -2.0%
PERRY COUNTY 925 -6.9%
CLAY COUNTY 1,024 -0.4%
HUMBOLDT 1,045 -1.8%
MCKENZIE 1,163 -4.5%
CHILDREN’S SERVICES DEPARTMENT 1,182 -8.9%
ONEIDA 1,191 -2.5%
HOUSTON COUNTY 1218 -5.7%
TRENTON 1,242 -0.2%
FAYETTEVILLE 1,255 -4.0%
HUNTINGDON 1,262 -1.1%
TROUSDALE COUNTY 1,273 -0.6%
MANCHESTER 1317 -4.5%
JACKSON COUNTY 1,354 -1.5%
PURE WATER 1,365 -2.0%
DECATUR COUNTY 1376 -9.0%
BLEDSOE COUNTY 1475 -8.7%
CITY OF THE UNION 1496 -1.9%
PARIS 1,502 -2.9%
COUNTY OF LEWIS 1,509 -6.5%
ATHENS 1,537 -5.0%
CANON COUNTY 1,592 -17.1%
WAYNE COUNTY 1,665 -13.4%
MEIGS COUNTY 1,669 2.0%
GRUNDY COUNTY 1,716 -4.5%
MILAN 1,832 -3.7%
BENTON COUNTY 1,858 -10.4%
LAKE OF THE LAKES 1,863 2.5%
STEWART COUNTY 1 911 -2.7%
JOHNSON COUNTY 1,912 -3.0%
CROCKETT COUNTY 1,913 -0.7%
FENTRESS COUNTY 1,928 -6.8%
SEQUATCHIE COUNTY 1 966 7.5%
ALCOA 2.014 -1.5%
POLK COUNTY 2,026 -5.3%
UNICOI COUNTY 2,097 -4.3%
SCOTT COUNTY 2388 -14.7%
CITY OF LÉNOIR 2 406 3.7%
MILLINGTON 2,437 -1.6%
DYERSBOURG 2,448 0.1%
HAYWOOD COUNTY 2 451 -6.6%
ELIZABETHTON 2,529 1.8%
CHESTER COUNTY 2 603 -5.7%
MORGAN COUNTY 2,634 -2.2%
HUMPHREY COUNTY 2,735 -3.8%
HENRY COUNTY 2,738 -6.8%
GREENEVILLE 2,744 -2.3%
DEKALB COUNTY 2,790 -0.2%
SMITH COUNTY 2 874 -3.2%
COUNTY OF LA FAYETTE 2 986 -6.1%
OVERTON COUNTY 2 990 -2.1%
OBION COUNTY 2 998 -4.8%
GRAINGER COUNTY 3,081 -3.7%
FRANKLIN 3 115 -9.5%
HICKMAN COUNTY 3 133 -4.4%
HARDEMAN COUNTY 3 136 -4.5%
HARDIN COUNTY 3 384 -0.2%
TULLAHOMA 3 438 -0.5%
LAUDERDALE COUNTY 3 477 -5.2%
LINCOLN COUNTY 3 517 -6.7%
LEBANON 3,584 -5.1%
GILES COUNTY 3,585 -1.6%
DYER COUNTY 3,628 -2.9%
WHITE COUNTY 3 653 -2.8%
BRISTOL 3,670 -6.5%
MARION COUNTY 3 789 -2.2%
MACON COUNTY 3 792 -3.2%
MCNAIRY COUNTY 3 793 -1.8%
GIBSON COUNTY SP 3 797 -2.1%
WEAKLEY COUNTY 3,832 -2.7%
HENDERSON COUNTY 3,842 0.2%
CLAIBORNE COUNTY 3,903 -1.2%
RHEA COUNTY 3 942 -4.8%
COFFEE COUNTY 4 123 -3.3%
COCKE COUNTY 4.235 -3.3%
CARTER COUNTY 4,427 -3.1%
RIDGE OF OAK 4,449 -1.9%
LOUDON COUNTY 4,473 -2.8%
MONROE COUNTY 4,541 -12.3%
FRANKLIN COUNTY 4,664 -7.5%
CAMPBELL COUNTY 4 752 -6.5%
UNION COUNTY 4 770 5.5%
SSD ARLINTON 4 816 1.0%
MCMINN COUNTY 4,999 -4.1%
CHEATHAM COUNTY 5,214 -11.5%
MARSHALL COUNTY 5,247 -2.5%
MARIEVILLE 5 355 0.1%
CLEVELAND 5,469 -0.6%
ST.LAWRENCE COUNTY 5 689 -12.0%
GREENE COUNTY 5 889 -3.8%
GERMAN 5,940 -2.0%
ANDERSON COUNTY 6,017 -2.1%
HAWKINS COUNTY 6,090 -4.5%
WARREN COUNTY 6,100 -2.7%
ROANE COUNTY 6 176 -1.8%
CUMBERLAND COUNTY 6,589 -6.0%
JEFFERSON COUNTY 6,728 -3.3%
KINGSPORT 7,212 -1.7%
JOHNSON CITY 7 614 -3.4%
DICKSON COUNTY 7 722 -3.5%
WASHINGTON COUNTY 8,114 -2.8%
MURFREEBORO 8,131 -4.2%
SULLIVAN COUNTY 8,449 -5.4%
BEDFORD COUNTY 8 451 -2.8%
BARTLETT 8,568 -4.0%
COLLIERVILLE 8,858 -1.9%
BRADLEY COUNTY 9 384 -5.5%
HAMBLEN COUNTY 9 652 -5.0%
TIPTON COUNTY 9,994 -2.8%
BLOUNT COUNTY 10,241 -2.1%
PUTNAM COUNTY 11 082 -2.4%
MADISON COUNTY 11 811 -1.2%
COUNTY OF MAURY 11,827 -5.6%
ROBERTSON COUNTY 13 577 13.2%
COUNTY OF SEVIER 13 662 -4.2%
WILSON COUNTY 18,047 -2.8%
SUMMER COUNTY 28,571 -3.1%
MONTGOMERY COUNTY 35,547 -0.3%
WILLIAMSON COUNTY 38,991 -3.9%
HAMILTON COUNTY 42 832 -2.1%
RUTHERFORD COUNTY 44,807 -3.0%
KNOX COUNTY 56,974 -4.2%
DAVIDSON COUNTY 76,859 -4.8%
SHELBY COUNTY 99,290 -3.7%
STATE 935,376 -3.5%
ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT 10,013 -14.67%
STATE EDUCATION COUNCIL 1214 48.61%

Data communicated by the districts as of October 30, 2020.

Tennessee Department of Education


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