Massachusetts public school enrollment drops

MALDEN, Mass. (WLNE) — Enrollment is dropping in Massachusetts public schools.

That’s according to new certified data released during Tuesday’s meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Enrollment down by 37,000 students, or 3.9%, since 2019.

Almost half of that drop is from from the youngest students.

“Forty-six of that total decrease comes from just pre-kindergarten and kindergarten grades,” said Russell Johnson, of the Massachusetts DESE.

Many of those students are transferring to in-state private schools or being home-schooled during the pandemic.

“We expect many of those children will be back in our system for next year,” said Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley. “Parents have just opted to keep their kids home for the year rather than start in the system.”

Some are wondering how the statewide numbers would break down when looking at communities that have reopened their schools to in-person learning for the youngest students.

“I’d be very interested in seeing some kind of comparison in those lower grades for parents sending their kids to school, attendance, engagement with the school,” said board member Michael Moriarty. “Where those kids are in school, I think they’re suffering much less learning loss, and this is a contrast I think could help us have a deeper understanding of where this is happening and in what way.”

Others say a full understanding could take a while as the pandemic circumstances improve.

“It’s going to be a full year before we really understand who re-enrolled, assuming that there’s a return to some sort of normalcy,” said board chair Katherine Craven.

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