BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s public schools have nearly 17,000 fewer students in the coronavirus pandemic, an enrollment decline of more than 2% this year, according to state officials.
Nearly half the decrease is among students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. However, The Advocate reports that drops also appeared in the number of students in first grade through seventh grade.
“Families just aren’t sending their kids to school in these lowest grades,” Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The latest snapshot is based on the Oct. 1 headcount of students, one of two done annually. The next one takes place in February.
Enrollment in Louisiana totals 699,625 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2020-21 school year, a decline of 16,791 students, according to a state education department report, which cited the impact of the hurricane season in addition to the pandemic.
The student decrease in Louisiana mirrors national trends. A survey done by The Associated Press and Chalkbeat showed public school enrollment is down 2% among 33 states that responded. Mississippi showed the largest decline at nearly 5%. Enrollment dropped nearly 3% in Texas.
“I’m confident more families will return to our public schools when all systems safely resume face-to-face instruction,” Brumley said in a statement that accompanied the state report.
About 60% of public school students are attending in-person classes. The rest are relying on virtual learning or a combination of virtual and in-person instruction.
The ranks of pre-kindergarten students are down 4,361, or 15.9%. Kindergarten enrollment is down 3,649, or 6.7%. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten decreases account for 48% of the overall slide.