In a year marked by an ongoing pandemic and remote learning, Chicago Public Schools has seen its most significant drop in enrollment in the past 20 years.
The school district announced Friday that its citywide enrollment had fallen by nearly 15,000 students, from 355,156 in the 2019-20 school year down to 340,658 at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
“This is the largest drop in enrollment that Chicago Public Schools has experienced in the past two decades,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Friday. “I would also like to note that while we are retaining more of our students, which is something that gives us great pride, the fact that we see fewer kids enrolling is troubling and we must respond to that in order to preserve the things that matter most to us here in the district.”
According to CPS, 20th-day enrollment data shows that the number of newly enrolling students fell from 44,000 last year to 32,000 this year.
Indeed, the number of Black students who enrolled in pre-K in 2020-21 was almost half the previous year’s, dropping 44% from 2019-20, while the number of pre-K Latino students declined 29%.
Similar trends were seen across all racial groups, with a 22% decline in pre-K enrollment for white students and a 9% pre-K drop for Asian students.
Overall, enrollment is down more than 60,000 students compared with a decade ago, when CPS enrollment still topped 400,000.
CPS said the COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame for this year’s enrollment drop. The announcement came in an email early Friday morning, on the same day CPS announced it will begin bringing back some students for in-person learning next quarter, while the vast majority of students will continue learning remotely.
“While we’re seeing similar trends across the country, the stunning decline among Black children enrolled in pre-K casts a somber light on how the pandemic and remote learning negatively impact our youngest learners,” CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said in a statement. “It’s our responsibility to educate our children, and we are prepared to safely offer in-person learning, beginning with our youngest and most vulnerable students, to ensure they stay on a positive academic trajectory.”