BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The State Department of Education says enrollment numbers in California public schools have declined by more than 700% since the start of the pandemic. While many have an idea on why officials say there isn’t much local data yet to prove the exact reasons.
“The only real drop that we have seen is that we have had a downward tik in our kindergarten registration,” said Kelly Richer, superintendent at Wasco Union Elementary School District.
Richer tells 23ABC that this lack of new students could have financial repercussions equivalent to one or two teaching positions.
“Normally we have a significant number of kindergarten kids registering for the next school year and this past year we did not see that,” said Richer.
According to the California Department of Education’s Preliminary October 2020 enrollment census data, enrollment dropped by more than 150,000 students statewide for the 2020-21 school year, compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic enrollment.
Things are different in Kern County according to Robert Menzaros with Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
In a statement to 23ABC, he said, “Countywide public school enrollment has been increasing in Kern County for many years, due mainly to growth in population.”
Meszaros said that there is no way to know with certainty how the pandemic has impacted enrollment at this time but stated that, “we have heard anecdotally of enrollment declines this school year, primarily in kindergarten, which is optional and not required by law for children to attend.”
According to Richer, there are many reasons why parents could be deciding to pull their kindergarten students from enrolling in school. He said it could be due to the pandemic and distance learning.
“Parents in many cases don’t have the technical background to be able to assist that child and that makes it more difficult. Also, if you can’t help somebody, when they are coming to you for help, and it takes a delay to get the schools to help, then you find yourself very frustrated,” Richer said.
Other school districts like, McFarland Union School District, say their enrollment is steady. This comes as districts continue to work on returning to in-person learning as many are looking forward to getting back into the classrooms.
“It is a difficulty because these are the children that probably need to be exposed to some sort of school setting, we are eager to get kids back, we are looking at re-opening plans, it is very difficult to accomplish, however,” said Richer.
The California Department of Education plans to release more information about enrollment numbers along with the potential financial repercussions in the next few months.