The public school system in the United States lost nearly 1.3 million students over the 2020-21 school year, Education Week reports, based on its analysis of currently available state-level data.
That represents a drop of almost 3 percent, as unnecessary coronavirus-related shutdowns and destructive distance learning policies caused parents to flee in droves. The data show that the exodus from the system was most pronounced among younger grades and disproportionately hurt low-income students. As many of us have been saying all along, Zoom was no substitute for in person instruction.
“When you already have pre-existing issues like poverty and the digital divide, and then you shut down the one place that is positioned to help close those gaps, you probably see that most districts have experienced an enrollment drop,” Education Week quoted Sharlonda Buckman, the assistant superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, as saying. “Most of our children work best in a school building with their teachers with all of the assets that position them to do well in their schoolwork.”
Having kept children away from classrooms despite evidence showing that schools were not a source of widespread transmission, officials now want to spend more money to try to deal with the resulting damage:
Catching students up academically also won’t come cheap, according to administrators. Students will need smaller classes to catch up and a plethora of mental health services after being holed up inside their homes for months at a time with little healthy social interaction.
As schools plan for the summer, they are adding in mental health support for students to start this recovery process. In April, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced a plan to hire 500 new social workers to screen students for pandemic-related trauma.
It should also be noted that President Biden’s budget request included a proposal for more funding to deal with the mental health effects of school closures.