TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - Enrollment at public schools in Washington state has declined by about 31,000 students compared to last year, mostly because of the coronavirus pandemic, a report said.
Data from the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released Wednesday shows there was a 2.82% decrease in K-12 school enrollment this September compared to September 2019, The News Tribune reported.
School officials say about a third of the decline, or more than 11,000 students, was because of parents not enrolling their kindergarten-age children or delaying their start in public school. As a result, kindergarten saw the largest decline at 14% compared to September of last year.
“Across the board, the early grades experienced larger declines in enrollment than the later grades,” the report said.
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said the COVID-19 pandemic is driving the enrollment decrease.
“As our nation continues to fight the spread of COVID-19, states across the country are seeing changes in K–12 enrollment as families make decisions about the safest and most effective learning environments for their children,” Reykdal said.
Pierce County, the second largest county in the state, saw an overall enrollment decline of more than 4,500 students across its 15 school districts, officials said. The Tri-Cities and Whatcom and Thurston counties also saw declines of more than 1,000 students.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. Studies suggest some people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.