DOE: New York City public schools have lost 43,000 students so far this school year

A student is seen as they return to New York City’s public schools for in-person learning, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at P.S. 506 in Brooklyn, New York
A student is seen as they return to New York City’s public schools for in-person learning in Brooklyn on Dec. 7, 2020.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

 New York City public school enrollment has dropped significantly across nearly all grade levels this school year, according to preliminary data from the Department of Education released Wednesday. 

The country’s largest public school system has lost a total of about 43,000 children so far during the 2020-21 academic year bringing total enrollment down to 960,000 students. Out of all grade levels, the largest drop has taken place among the city’s youngest learners. 

In 2020,  the DOE reports that about 10,000 new students enrolled in pre-K over 4,000 less than the year prior. Officials recognize that the drop could be due to concerns over sending children back into classrooms amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

 Enrollment rates have dropped among public elementary schools since the 2014-2015 school year while public high school enrollment had declined every year since the 2016-17 academic year, according to the DOE.  On Wednesday officials argued that part of the reason for declining enrollment is due to a declining birth rate in the city. 

“Given the current circumstances of a pandemic it is no surprise that we are seeing greater fluctuations in enrollment this year,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon. “However, no school district has stabilized its school system the way we have, which means that we can and will continue to offer the gold standard in health, safety, and learning in a completely transformed educational environment to our students.” 

School leadership expressed concern over falling enrollment numbers given that federal funding to New York City public schools is in part tied to student enrollment. 

  • 3K enrollment declined by 8%   
  • Pre-K enrollment declined by 13%   
  • Kindergarten enrollment declined by 9%   
  • 1st grade enrollment declined by 6%  
  • 2nd grade enrollment declined by 8%   
  • 3rd grade enrollment declined by 4%, (same as prior year)   
  •  4th grade enrollment declined by 6%   
  • 5th grade enrollment declined by 5%   
  • 6th grade enrollment declined by 3%, (same as prior year) 
  • 7th grade enrollment declined by 5%   
  • 8th grade enrollment did not change
  • 9th grade enrollment declined by 4%   
  • 10th grade enrollment increased by 2%   
  • 11th grade enrollment increased by 2%   
  • 12th grade enrollment declined by 1%, (same as prior year)