A new study by The Boston Schools Fund shows that enrollment declines have been steep citywide in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) this year – following a statewide trend of COVID-19 withdrawals – and Jamaica Plain has seen a concerning number of students leave as well.
The study looked at enrollment data provided by the annual October 1 Enrollment Report provided to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which annually serve as the official enrollment statistics for each district in the state.
Overall, the study found that Boston had 2,368 fewer students this year than last school year, which was a 4.7 percent decline in total enrollment. Much of that decline in Boston came at the entry grades of K1 (13% decline), K2 (11.7% decline) and 9th grade (15% decline). For context, the report indicated that BPS did much better than the state decline for K1/K2 decreases, but did far worse than the state for 9th grade.
Enrollment was down across every neighborhood in Boston, and for varying reasons that haven’t yet been studied or defined.
By percentage, JP enrollments were down 5 percent this year, which was concerning but by no means as high as the leader, Allston-Brighton, which was down 12.7 percent. Charlestown was down 11.03 percent, and the South End had a 7.3 percent decline, and Mattapan had a 7.26 percent decline.
Oddly enough, across the city exam school enrollment was up by 1.05 percent, and the Back Bay actually increased its enrollment number by 1.9 percent, but that only amounted to nine students in total as the Back Bay has a very small overall enrollment in the public schools.
Enrollment declines by neighborhood were looked at only by the location of the schools in the neighborhood, and not by the zip code or home of the actual students in the school, so there could be some variation for students coming into JP from other neighborhoods and students going out of JP to other neighborhoods. In JP, the decline amounted to 209 students that were not in the schools as compared to last year.
Allston-Brighton’s decline amounted to 353 students, and Roxbury actually had the most student decrease at 380 students – though that was only a 4.7 percent decline in the total numbers there.
Overall, the study showed that BPS enrollment projections citywide were off by more than 9,500 students, or 17.4 percent, due to the pandemic. Those numbers were projected in BuildBPS studies done in 2016. The largest number off the mark came in grades K2-5, where 26,149 students were expected this year, and 20,913 enrolled.
There are any number of reasons for the exodus, though the study did not track where those students have gone. Some have simply not shown up for school, while many also anecdotally report that students are leaving public schools – which are all remote – to attend in-person private and Catholic schools.
“Data presented in the above slides give us a snapshot of BPS enrollment, but do not provide explanations for enrollment drop among different groups, grades, and neighborhoods,” read the report. “There are further questions that must be asked.”
Among those questions are those about why certain groups are leaving the district and are there different reasons, and another key question is finding out which students are likely to return to the district post-COVID.