You are reading

With 1.9 Percent Enrollment Drop, NYC Schools Have Lost 64,000 Students Since Pandemic Started

Desks were placed at a distance from each other in the cafeteria of a Bronx middle and high school. Christina Veiga / Chalkbeat

Enrollment in the nation’s largest school system has dropped roughly 1.9 percent this school year, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the education department.

Roughly 938,000 students are enrolled in New York City’s public schools, down from about 955,000 last school year, when the system saw a significant decline related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Declining birth rates are playing a role, a department spokesperson said. Some families have left the five boroughs, opted for charter schools, private schools, or home school, though officials did not provide data that reveals to what extent those factors may be affecting the enrollment shift.

The city’s public schools have been shedding students well before the pandemic. The decline last school year was much more significant, though, with enrollment dropping by 4.7 percent.

Overall, the city’s district schools now have 6.4 percent, or about 64,000, fewer students compared with the 2019-2020 school year, when the pandemic started.

Charter school enrollment has increased 3.2 percent this school year and now stands at 143,000, or roughly 13 percent of the city’s public school students. Though the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in New York City has been reached, schools may still phase in additional grade levels that have already been approved.

Enrollment trends matter considerably at the school level because the majority of school budgets are allocated on a per-student basis. If a school enrolls fewer students than the city projected, they may be forced to hand funding back, a practice that generated outsized criticism last school year, as some schools owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

City officials wound up allowing schools to keep the funding they owed, and that policy will continue this school year, officials said.

School systems across the country have also experienced enrollment declines this year, including nearly 6 percent in Los Angeles and 3 percent in Chicago, the nation’s second and third largest districts.

“​​As the nation’s largest school district we’ve been impacted by the nationwide enrollment fluctuation that impacted schools across the country, and this data shows enrollment is stabilizing as we continue our City’s incredible recovery,” education department spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon said in a statement.

Fewer kids are back in school than in recent years past. New York City Mayors Office

Last school year, the largest enrollment drops were among the city’s youngest learners, echoing trends in districts across the country, as some families may have been reluctant to rely on virtual learning for young children or were nervous about sending their unvaccinated children to school in the midst of a pandemic.

This year, enrollment in pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds held steady, but is still below pre-pandemic levels, department officials indicated at a City Council hearing this week.

With an influx of federal dollars, city officials have expanded its pre-K offerings for 3-year-olds leading to an overall preschool increase of roughly 28 percent. In kindergarten, the year education becomes compulsory, enrollment fell 9 percent last year. Officials did not immediately provide a grade-by-grade breakdown for the latest data.

For weeks, elected officials have been pressing the education department for enrollment figures and a clear accounting of how many students are not regularly showing up to school.

Parents are now required to send their children to school in person, but some have resisted, citing the ongoing pandemic and skepticism of the city’s safety protocols in schools.

The numbers released Friday do not offer a precise indication of how many students have disengaged from school, or are chronically absent, even as they continue to live in the city. Officials said average daily attendance to date stands at 89 percent, though they did not immediately say how that compares to the same period in prior years.

Although individual school budgets will not take a hit if their enrollment shrinks, a significant drop-off can eventually pose a threat since district officials have closed schools that they conclude are too small to be sustainable.

At the district level, enrollment declines could affect funding levels, though the department’s budget has grown even as the number of students enrolled in district schools has shrunk.

And the immediate budget outlook is far rosier than many predicted when the pandemic hit: The city is flush with nearly $7 billion in federal coronavirus relief dollars and state officials have also pledged to boost funding for schools.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Porn actor Ron Jeremy, who grew up in Bayside, found unable to stand trial for rape

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday, Jan. 17, declared that porn performer Ron Jeremy is mentally incompetent to stand trial on dozens of rape and sexual assault counts.

Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Harris said in a hearing that after reviewing reports from both prosecutors and Jeremy’s defense that he is in “incurable neurocognitive decline” from which he is unlikely to recover.