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Utah's public school enrollment declines for first time in 20 years

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Posted at 3:31 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 17:37:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Fewer students are enrolled in Utah's public K-12 schools in 2020 than were enrolled in 2019, the first such decline since 2000, according to the Utah State Board of Education.

“Enrollment counts are especially important this year as schools contend with effects from the pandemic,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson in a news release sent to FOX 13. “In addition to our annual October 1 head count, the Utah State Board of Education is taking additional enrollment counts throughout the year to help the state, districts, and charter schools keep track of students in this environment.”

USBE reports public school enrollment has decreased by 0.23 percent, with a total of 665,306 students enrolled this year.

Kindergarten enrollment, which is optional in Utah, went down by 3.93 percent, or 1,457 students, this school year, USBE data showed.

An enrollment count in September showed an upturn in homeschooling options for younger children and a larger than normal migration to private schooling, the news release said.

The data also shows a drop in enrollment of students who were not in a Utah school the previous year, which points to a decline in the number of schoolchildren moving to Utah.

USBE is concerned with an 8.28 percent drop (more than 17,000 students) in the number of economically-disadvantaged students this school year, but the decrease doesn't necessarily mean students are not enrolled or missing classes.

A student is considered economically disadvantaged if he or she is qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

This year, the federal government enacted a policy to continue free school lunch for the remainder of the year. Therefore, the parents/guardians of students who were previously counted as economically disadvantaged were not required to fill out eligibility forms for free or reduced-price lunch.

USBE is working districts and charters for clarity on the issue.