New York City public school enrollment dropped by nearly 2% this year

First day of New York City schools
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Enrollment in the New York City public school system dropped by 17,000 students this year, preliminary data shows. 

Officials reported that during last year the system saw a decline of 5% in enrollment bringing the total number of children enrolled in a city public school to 955,000 from 1,002,000 the year before. But now the shift is “stabilizing,” with officials reporting only a 1.9% decline in enrollment pushing the total number of students in 3k through the 12th grade to 938,000.

DOE officials attribute the drop in enrollment in part to a declining birth rate in the city and challenges caused by the pandemic similar to other larger cities across the country. This year, the number of children attending public schools in Los Angeles dropped by 5.8% and in Chicago and Miami by 4% and 2.2% respectively. In addition, officials say, last year’s enrollment drop was driven by a decrease in 3k and pre-K enrollment as a result of new students not entering those grades due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The reason public school enrollment numbers are been able to recover is due to a surge in enrollment in 3k and pre-K classes across the city as the result of pandemic restrictions lifting and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expansion of 3k programs to every school district across the five boroughs. So far this year, officials reported a high of 96,000 toddlers attending a city 3k program, roughly 21,000 more children than last year and 9,000 than during the 2019-20 school year. 

According to the data, there are roughly 357,000 children enrolled in kindergarten through the fifth grade, about 191,000 enrolled in the sixth through eighth grade and 294,000 teens enrolled in ninth through 12th grade. 

Charter school enrollment across the five boroughs has increased by 4,000 students this year knocking up total enrollment to 143,000 from 139,000 during the 2020-21 school year, according to the unaudited data.

The data, which the DOE will re-release in the spring, will most likely change in the coming months since parents are still able to enroll their students in early childhood programs and does not reflect the number of students who are chronically absent from schools. Regardless, the DOE is not holding schools harmless for their enrollment meaning no school will have their budgets cut due to low enrollment thanks to federal stimulus funds.

“From day one of this pandemic our school leaders and educators met the needs of New York City students at every turn, and we’re supporting schools with unprecedented investments and holding them harmless for enrollment shifts this year,” DOE spokesperson Katie  O’Halon said. ” As the nation’s largest school district we’ve been impacted by the nationwide enrollment fluctuation that impacted schools across the country, and this data shows enrollment is stabilizing as we continue our City’s incredible recovery.”



More from around NYC