Tuesday, September 28, 2021

L.A. Unified Sees Sharp Decline in Attendance

Wow, this is some serious number of absentees!

At LAT, "L.A. Unified enrollment drops by more than 27,000 students, steepest decline in years":

Enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District has dropped by more than 27,000 students since last year, a decline of close to 6% — a much steeper slide than in any recent year.

The comparison is based on an annual count referred to as “norm day,” the fifth Friday of every new school year, Sept. 17 this year. Last year’s enrollment total for pre-school through 12th grade was 466,229. This year’s figure for that same date is 439,013, according to data provided by L.A. Unified that will be presented to the school board Tuesday.

Other data released by L.A. Unified indicates other potential concerns. The district estimates that between 70% and 80% of the school staff are on target to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the district’s deadline of Oct. 15, indicating that thousands of employees face termination, which would exacerbate another problem: more than 2,000 unfilled jobs.

“We’re still seeing the impact of COVID,” said Veronica Arreguin, the district’s chief strategy officer, about the enrollment decline. Arreguin also noted that much of the decline was expected, in line with many years of dropping enrollment related to lower birth rates, families moving to more affordable areas and other factors.

Even so, the shortfall is three times what planners in the nation’s second-largest school district predicted. The district plans to act aggressively to understand what is happening and what to do about it.

“If it’s something we can change,” Arreguin said, “we need to change.”

The decline is not unique to L.A. Unified.

Enrollment dropped across the nation last year as families and school systems grappled with a pandemic that shut down in-person instruction for much of the year in most places and also prompted worried families to keep children at home when they had a choice to go back.

Statewide, enrollment in K-12 public schools fell by almost 3%, or 160,000, students last year, according to data from the California Department of Education. That was the largest drop of the last 20 years, surpassing a 1% drop between October 2008 and October 2009. More than a third of that decline was due to a lower enrollment in kindergarten.

The causes are varied, with economic factors at play — the high cost of living, including gentrification, has pushed families farther from the once-affordable urban core and also from adjacent suburbs served by L.A. Unified. Another factor has been limits on immigration, which used to funnel a steady supply of families with young children into L.A. Unified. The pandemic’s influence is difficult to pinpoint and measure.

For the 2020-21 school year, with campuses closed because of the pandemic, kindergarten enrollment declined by almost 6,000 students from the previous year, with many families dissatisfied with kindergartners having to attend class online. In a more typical year, the number of kindergarten students would have declined by about 2,000.

Unexpectedly large declines in the younger grades continued this year and, to a lesser degree, affected middle schools as well, said Tony Atienza, the district’s director of budget services and financial planning...


That's what they always say. *Eye-roll.*

Still more.