School enrollment drop across Massachusetts

School enrollment drops across Massachusetts

BOSTON — Massachusetts has seen a significant drop in public school enrollment according to new enrollment data shared by the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Enrollment data provided by each of the state’s 400 school districts showed a decline of 3.94% or 37,396 for the 2020-21 school year, so far. In the 2018-19 and 2019-20 year, enrollment dropped less than a third of a percent, according Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner.

The data, Johnston explained, still needs further analysis and noted that this is the earliest the state has released these numbers.

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Some of the decline is attributed to parents enrolling their children in private school enrollment, home schooling, or removing their kids from school altogether. Nearly half, 46% of the students dropping out were pre-K or kindergarten, said DESE.

“We expect that many of those children will be back in our system for next year,” explained DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. “The parents have just opted to keep the kids home for the year.”

The data were revealed during DESE’s monthly board meeting which also included updates on testing efforts first announced nearly a week ago.

A total of 134 school districts are part of Phase 1 rapid testing which is being used to screen students and staff members and ultimately get students who are in hybrid or remote settings back to in-person learning.

More districts will be added to the program soon, according to DESE officials.

Through the federal government, Massachusetts is expected to receive two million Abbott Binax NOW rapid tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in public and charter schools, collaboratives, and some special education programs.

Riley and Education Secretary James Pesyer reiterated a message that has been delivered since summer about the importance of bringing students back for in-person learning for districts that are remote despite the coronavirus pandemic, unless there is suspected in-school transmission, per DESE protocols.

Districts in towns and cities designated as grey, green or yellow are expected to have students in-school learning, schools in red should be hybrid and those with higher case loads and positivity rates, such as Chelsea or Lawrence, will receive additional state help, according to Riley.

Commissioner Riley said there would be no change to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for January to March and regarding April, DESE is exploring options including possible at-home testing for some students.