The 2020-2021 school year ushered in plenty of difficult new challenges for Iowa educators and school officials. One that they may not have seen coming: a major drop in new student enrollment. The reason why according to one school expert: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Is COVID to blame for shrinking enrollment numbers?

Iowa public school enrollment showed a drop of nearly 6,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year according to a Radio Iowa report. According to the report, Jay Pennington who is the Department of Education analyst, claims the main area where enrollment dropped was preschool and kindergarten-age students.

I think the real question is how many of the 6,000 or so of the students that we lost actually come back for the 2021-22 school year. -Jay Pennington via Radio Iowa

The logical reason he says the COVID pandemic has many parents of school-aged students keeping their children at home during the unpredictable time that has been the ongoing pandemic. Pennington also said that despite the overall drop in numbers, that roughly one-third of districts that are located in larger urban areas are still gaining students. That leaves rural areas to see the steepest decline in numbers.

Photo by Shane on Unsplash
Photo by Shane on Unsplash

The pandemic hasn't necessarily hurt students overall, in 2020 Iowa's average ACT score went up despite fewer students actually taking the test. Another positive, there was also an increase in the graduation rate. On the negative side, mathematic achievement dropped in 2020. Pennington says he hopes to see higher enrollment in the 2021-2022 school year once those numbers are available. With the younger age group now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, the hope is more parents will trust their children will be able to stay healthy during the school year.

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