The pandemic has taken its toll on public schools, which were forced to move millions of students to online learning. The California Department of Education is reporting a sharp decline in enrollment in most school districts in the state.
According to the newly released state data, overall enrollment in public schools statewide decreased 2.6% this 2020-2021 school year from the last school year.
Overall in San Diego County, the drop was a 3% change and in the San Diego Unified School District, the drop was a 4% year-to-year change.
“That's a significant number of students who did not enroll, but it is not this mass exodus of students from the district some people were claiming,” said the district’s school board president Richard Barrera.
He said more than half of the 4,000 students who did not enroll this year were kindergarteners whose parents did not want them to start school during the pandemic.
Barrera said the district fully intends to be open for in-person learning in the fall, and he hopes kindergarteners will enroll, and other students who chose other options this year will return.
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year when her son was going into the fifth grade, Tierrasanta parent Julie Butts moved him to an online home charter school.
“He was losing his love of learning, and that was my primary concern, he has many, many years to go," she said.
She is happy for friends whose children in the San Diego Unified School District are now back doing in-person instruction, albeit with only weeks to go. Will her son go back to the district?
“Even though I know they are back right now, I feel there is still some uncertainty, so I’ll be happy to see where we end up in September,” she said. “Trying to help my son navigate through that, make the best decision, for me, that’s where we’re at.” She is certain it will be in-person instruction.
Districts are not losing out on state money it would get for student attendance. Given the pandemic, the state is basing funding on pre-pandemic enrollment.