After nine years of increasing enrolment in public schools, the last three years have seen a declining enrolment in Oregon. The total amount of students from K-12 grade in public schools has declined by over 30,000, according to an OPB article written by Elizabeth Miller on Feb. 14.
The main factor in the decline is the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut schools down and after reopening required students and staff to wear facemasks and comply with other pandemic mandates. The total amount of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the fall of 2019 was 582,661, and the total amount as of the fall of 2022 was 552,380. The 2020-21 year saw a decline of 3.7%, the 2021-2022 year a decline of 1.4%, and the 2022-2023 year a decline of 0.1% or 632 students.
Oregon Department of Education officials are concerned about the decline, as they aren’t sure where the students have gone. Most of the students are believed to have switched over to homeschooling, which rose by 70% in the 2021-22 school year and now has 29,162 students enrolled in Oregon. Others are believed to have moved out of state, as Oregon has had a net loss of residents over the last year.
The article explains state officials don’t record data for private school enrollment or homeschooling, so each educational service district must be contacted to compile the numbers. Essentially, even after accounting for some students switching to private schools, ODE officials say thousands of students are still unaccounted for.
This trend of declining enrolment to public schools is not unique to Oregon, as the article explains the number of students not returning to school nationwide since the pandemic closures are around 230,000 in 21 states, according to an Associated Press story written Feb. 9, which didn’t even include Oregon because of incomplete data.