This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Colorado school enrollment is essentially flat this year, with far fewer students showing up to class now than before the pandemic.
School leaders had hoped enrollment would rebound after the highly disrupted 2020-21 school year, when more than 20,000 students failed to show up in the state’s K-12 schools. But preliminary enrollment numbers shared with lawmakers show that isn’t happening.
Instead, 843,264 students enrolled in Colorado’s public schools this year, a 0.3% decrease from last year, according to documents presented Friday to lawmakers during a Joint Budget Committee hearing. More detailed information from the state’s October student count will be released in January.
State analysts expect that the mostly flat enrollment could turn into a long-term trend. Their projections for the next two school years now foresee a slight increase cancelled out by a slight decrease the following year.
The causes seem to be complex. Some families may have put their children in private schools or decided to home school them, but that’s not the only reason. State analysts attribute a mix of lower birth rates, less economic opportunity, and high housing prices pushing people out as reasons for lower school enrollment.
Metro Denver, the Southwest Mountain, San Luis Valley, Pueblo, and the Eastern Plains regions have seen the biggest percentage decline in student populations.
Statewide, kindergarten enrollment increased this year by 6% as parents enrolled some of the 6-year-olds they kept home last year. As a result, the state expects kindergarten enrollment to decline next year. This year, the proportion of students not enrolling in grades 1 through 12 declined about 0.8%, or about 6,250 students.