Cowlitz County schools are facing continued enrollment declines.education
Since the pandemic began, public schools, both local and national, have lost students, causing a corresponding decline in funding.
Across the United States, millions of students are no longer attending public schools and are choosing private, charter, or home schooling, according to a recent study by education policy publication Education Next.
A similar trend can be seen in Cowlitz County. While the reasons behind the change are not clear, local school officials and homeschooling groups believe that the accessibility of distance and hybrid learning during the pandemic has prompted some families to reconsider their schooling choices. said it could have happened.
Longview schools have continued to see enrollment declines since the start of the 2019-20 school year, according to a district report card from the Washington Office of the Public Education Commissioner.
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Since October 2019, schools in Longview have lost about 350 students, starting in 2021 with a total of 6,322.
Kelso now has 4,838 students, down 200 in enrollment since 2019. Kelso School District spokesperson Michele Naland said many families have switched to homeschooling and online alternatives.
Smaller school districts in the county are also facing declining student numbers. According to OSPI, Castle Rock has lost about 150 of its students, or 9% for him, but by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year he will have 10 students back and total enrollment will drop to 1,381. became a person
About 160 students have left the Woodland School District in the last few years and there are currently 2,372 enrolled. This is not the lowest number of registrations seen in Woodlands. In 2015, the district reported a total of 2,343 students. Tuttle Lake initially said that from 2019 he lost 24 students in 2020, but as the school district gained 33 of her students for a total of 701 in 2021, Enrollment has recovered.
With schools across Cowlitz County reporting the lowest enrollment numbers since pre-pandemic, school officials are bracing for what could lead to cuts in state funding.
Most of the school’s funding per student comes from state funding through pandemic-related emergency aid or legislatively passed programs. About 80% of Longview School District’s funding comes from the state, according to state superintendent data.
“Funding definitely depends on registration,” says Kelso’s Nerland.
On Monday, the Longview School District passed a $109 million budget for the 2022-23 school year, planning to draw on short-term federal primary and secondary education relief funds. The school district plans to lose nearly $6 million in total fund balances over the next four years, according to school board documents.
Jen Garrison Starver, advocacy chair for the Washington Homeschool Organization, said the pandemic has made many families realize that homeschooling can be a flexible option.
When schools closed in March 2020, Stuber said emails from parents wanting to explore other options went from about 10 to about 40 a day.
“It’s the ability to tailor education to the individual child,” Stuber said. “It means many different things to many different families.”
In addition to homeschooling, which takes students outside the district, local virtual academies are also popular with students, Nerland said.
Over the years, enrollment in the Kelso Virtual Academy has been around 30 students. By the 2020-21 school year, KVA had 881 students enrolled.
Many of them have decided to return in person the following year, but enrollment in the virtual academy with 235 students in 2021 is still higher than the recorded pre-pandemic year, according to OSPI’s report card. It’s still
Private school was another option.
Three Rivers Christian School in Longview has many new families, some of whom have moved across the country to attend private schools, said Erin Hart, Superintendent of Three Rivers Schools. The officials there were astonished.
“In the last few years we could look up and find out, ‘There will be this many students,’ but in the last two years we have been amazed…what we think and what we actually do. “I’m amazed at the difference that’s happened to me,” Hart said.
Overall, Three Rivers has seen some student turnover, but has not seen a significant and consistent change in enrollment since the outbreak of the pandemic. Perhaps because the cost of private schools can be an obstacle for families looking for alternative options.
Attracting new students
In some cases, such as Calama and Lake Tutor, enrollments have actually increased since 2020. Between the beginning of the 2019 school year and the beginning of his 2020 school year, Kalama has lost 41 of her students. Then, in 2021, he has 74 students, and now he has 1,112 more students than in 2019.
Kalama School District spokesperson Nick Shanmak said in an email: This is primarily due to new district offerings in early learning (preschool and transitional kindergarten).
“That said, we are closely monitoring new housing developments, interest rates and inflation rates in the region and are making strategic budget decisions to ensure we are the proper stewards of public funds. going.”
Enrollment at Kelso is still below pre-pandemic numbers, but the district is also starting to see it coming back, thanks to the district’s efforts to expand early learning options, Naland said. said.
“Most of these initiatives focus on students entering the school system for the first time,” said Nerland.
Sydney Brown is a news reporter for The Daily News covering education and environmental issues in Cowlitz County.