Public school enrollment has plummeted across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, causing 1.5 million fewer students in the classroom, the U.S. Department of Education has revealed.
While the parents of many of the 1.5 million students have opted for distance learning or private schools, CBS News reports that some have simply disappeared from the school system.
Earlier this month, schools opened in Las Vegas, making masks mandatory for the more than 300,000 students and about 18,000 teachers returning to face-to-face classes in the nation’s fifth-largest district. The classrooms were noticeably emptier this school year.
A school, Tate Elementary in Las Vegas, began searching for students who hadn’t turned up weeks after the start of the year.
George Gomez, 7, is now in second grade and hasn’t been in a classroom since kindergarten after his mother, Ivonne, decided to take distance learning last year.
However, she was convinced to re-enroll her son in public school after speaking with a doctor, who convinced her to do so following the family’s vaccinations.
Pictured: George Gomez, 7, now in second grade, hasn’t been in a classroom since kindergarten after his mother, Ivonne, decided last year to start distance learning
“So we all got our injections,” George’s mother said, adding that she feels safer having her son go back to school now that her family has had their injections
“I was a little scared and concerned because none of us had had a COVID shot,” Gomez’s mother told the outlet.
“So we all got our shots,” she said, adding that she feels safer now that her family has been vaccinated.
The school’s principal, Sarah Popek, told CBS News that George is one of many students in Tate who have yet to attend school due to parental concerns, adding that the area has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
Nurse Alisa Ellis-Balogun, of Sphere, tests 7-year-old Thomas Byrd (pictured) for coronavirus a day before she returns to school in Louisville, Kentucky on August 10
Earlier this month, schools opened in and around Las Vegas, where masks were required for the more than 300,000 students and about 18,000 teachers who returned to face-to-face classes.
“We do have some students who haven’t returned because their parents are worried,” she said.
Meanwhile, at nearby Orr Middle School, classrooms that were once packed with more than 1,200 students now have just 871.
“In fact, 400 didn’t show up on the first day of school,” high school principal Anthony Nunez told the outlet.
According to an October 2020 report by Bellwether Education Partners, approximately three million public school students stopped attending in-person or online classes after the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Percentage change in public school enrollment between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school year by state, with a handful of states showing a decline of 4 percent or more
Pictured: US homeschooling growth, peaking in 2020-2021
With a 2.94 percent dip, Nevada still hasn’t seen the biggest drop in enrollment in its public schools. New Mexico, Washington state, Mississippi, Michigan, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire all saw a four percent or more drop in enrollment between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Nunez added that the shrinking classrooms could have more than just an impact on students. With a smaller number of students, the high school principal says teachers could lose their jobs. ‘It can lead to staff reductions.’
Meanwhile, the number of parents who have chosen to homeschool their children has risen sharply as enrollment in public schools falls.
CBS News reports that school administrators will eventually track down the missing students by literally going door to door to locate them
From 2019 to the fall of 2020, the percentage of home-schooled students increased from 3.4 percent to 9 percent.
As of March 2021, there were an estimated 4.5 to 5 million home-schooled students in grades K-12 in the United States, or about 8 to 9 percent of school-aged children.
In the spring of 2019, about 2.5 million students were homeschooled, according to the National Research Institute for Home Education.
CBS News reports that school administrators will eventually track down the missing students by literally going door to door to locate them.