As Montgomery County Public Schools’ enrollment dips, data show that more students than usual are opting for homeschooling and private schooling.
Last academic year, 51 students withdrew from MCPS for homeschooling compared to 984 students this year, as of Sept. 16, according to data presented during a school board meeting on Tuesday.
School board member Jeanette Dixon asked whether the increase could be attributed to families not wanting to participate in remote learning, which MCPS is employing through the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said, “I certainly would draw that conclusion.”
Smith said many families told the school district in the spring that they planned to homeschool if buildings did not reopen for face-to-face learning in the fall, and he suspects “now, they’re making it more permanent.”
“My hope is they come back to us when we’re not in an all-virtual environment,” Smith said.
Data presented on Tuesday show that last year 908 students withdrew to attend private schools, and this year, the number climbed to 1,120 students.
MCPS’ enrollment this year (162,342, as of Sept. 13) is down about 3,000 students compared to its official enrollment last academic year. Official enrollment is recorded on Sept. 30 each year. Last year, Smith had said the school district’s enrollment climbed to more than 166,000 students later in the 2019-20 academic year.
Smith said much of the decrease can be attributed to a decline in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment.
He also said the most recent enrollment data show that none of the 135 elementary schools met or exceeded projections, while all middle schools did. Most high schools are slightly below their projections, he said.
MCPS’ enrollment drop will have what officials have called a “significant impact” on the next fiscal year’s budget.
During a meeting of the school board’s Fiscal Management Committee on Monday, MCPS staff members said they are projecting a revenue loss of about $101 million in Fiscal Year 2022, about $36 million of which is attributed to lower enrollment.
On Tuesday, Smith and school board members emphasized, again, that “nobody would choose” remote instruction and they are looking forward to reopening facilities.
“Every single thing and the way we do it has had to change,” Smith said. “We’ll keep working through it because we can make it better, but that doesn’t imply it’s preferable or what we would choose.”
MCPS will offer thousands of students the opportunity to take the SAT over the next two weekends.
On Saturday, the test, often used for college admissions, will be administered in person at 10 schools. On Oct. 3, it will be administered at 12 schools.
Scott Murphy, director of MCPS’ Department of College and Career Readiness and Districtwide Programs, said hundreds of volunteers have gone through training to familiarize them with logistics, including social distancing and administering the tests safely.
Each testing room will have no more than 10 students and no school will have more than 250 students on site, Murphy said.
MCPS is considering whether to administer the SAT to interested students during classes on Oct. 27, but a final decision has not been made.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org