SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The new public school enrollment figures give the best insight to date of how the pandemic is reshaping education in Utah.
The results of an October 1 registration survey will be published during a Utah State Board of Education meet on Thursday. KSL investigators had quick access to the data.
A clear trend: a drop in enrollment in kindergarten.
Data Trends for October 1: Kindergarten Enrollment Declines
Kindergarten enrollment in Utah fell by 1,518 students for the 2020-2021 school year. This is a decrease of 3% compared to last year.
In most years, Utah experiences an increase in kindergarten enrollment from 1.5% to 3%.
“We haven’t seen the increase in kindergarten enrollment,” said Scott Jones, the Deputy Superintendent of Operations at USBE. âIn Utah, kindergarten kids don’t have to enroll or participate in school, so the number we predicted for kindergarten enrollment was not there. “
In fact, the last time kindergarten enrollment was this low was in 2010, when the enrollment documented on October 1 of that year was 47,757 students.
The unique circumstances created by the pandemic prompted Layton’s mother Chanell Price to teach her 5-year-old daughter Jennifer at home.
âEarly childhood is so important and crucial in giving them a good foundation and a good start,â Price explained.
Price is already passionate about learning and school. She enjoys reading and writing in a journal alongside her mother in a basement classroom.
âKindergarten needs consistency and I just didn’t feel like school could deliver that this year,â Price added.
Price is also educating his daughter Adalynn, 8, who is in third grade thanks to a program, My Tech High, which is administered by the Tooele County School District.
Adalynn suffers from dyslexia.
âWith the hybrid program, I knew she wouldn’t be able to get the reading help she needed,â Price said.
Data trends for October 1: growth in home, charter and virtual education options
The Price family reflects another trend in the latest listing numbers.
The number of Utah students who transferred to homeschooling more than tripled at the start of this school year compared to the previous year, especially among elementary and middle school classes.
And Utah’s charter schools saw a 2.1% increase in enrollment, with 1,625 more children enrolled over the same period.
Data on online and virtual school enrollments have also seen a noticeable increase. During the 2019-2020 academic year, 14,755 students were enrolled. In the current 2020-2021 school year, 26,605 students are enrolled in online and virtual schools across Utah. That’s an increase of 11,850 students.
The Utah Virtual Academy enrollment cap has been increased to 1,500 and the Utah Connections Academy enrollment cap has been increased to 1,000.
According to an analysis by the USBE, this data corresponds to an 80% single-year increase in online and virtual school enrollments from last year to this year.
Data Trends for October 1: Private School Enrollment Increases 25%
The number of students transferring to private Utah schools increased 25% at the start of this school year from the previous year. Much of it was among the upper classes.
Registration at American Heritage School – one of Utah’s largest private schools – mimics state data.
âFor our on-campus program, we had our biggest wave of applications at the school, which included 231 new admissions for this school year,â Principal Grant Beckwith said.
With just 910 total K-12 students enrolled on the American Fork Private School campus, these new students represent a quarter of the student body.
Although Beckwith acknowledges that COVID-19 has forced some of their families out of school, in some cases due to tuition fees, he says the net was the growth. The manager describes it as a two-way churn.
“We had 150 people who applied and were admitted for this new offer of a discounted tuition fee model that we call”The basics of AHS‘- just offer the most essential subjects to parents and cut those tuition fees by about half, âBeckwith said. “And we had almost 2,000 students who joined our existing online programs that we have developed over the years, as well as about 80 who joined another pilot program called”AHS online. ‘â
Beckwith said the program is a âfully framed, video-rich classroom productâ for students around the world who want a teacher to be present to teach.
“[Itâs] one of the most exciting increases in enrollment numbers that the American Heritage School has seen in a long time, âhe said.
Two of Kurt and Meagan Christensen’s four children attended school in the Alpine School District – Utah’s largest school district – before moving this fall to American Heritage.
Meagan Christensen is a former teacher and understands challenges.
âThey have a lot to deal with,â she said of the district. “They take care of a lot of students and a lot of different needs that they have to cover.”
âWe wanted to make sure our kids didn’t miss out on key milestones,â her husband added.
After distance learning proved difficult for their children last spring, the couple felt the private school could better handle COVID-19.
âIf we’re at the orange threat level, that’s what will happen. If we have to go remote for a while, that is what can happen, âsaid Kurt Christensen, explaining American Heritage’s plans to respond to any necessary changes brought about by the pandemic.
It remains to be seen whether the decline in enrollment in Utah public schools will be permanent.
USBE officials plan to do another enrollment survey in January.
These numbers are important because they determine the amount of funding public schools receive from the state. A school with declining enrollment will get less money the following year. By carrying out several enrollment surveys during this single school year, the state council hopes to get a more complete picture.
Members of the Christensen family have said they will take things one day at a time.
“We will see from year to year and we will make the decisions that are best for our children in that year,” said Meagan Christensen.
USBE monthly board meeting takes place virtually Thursday, November 5 from 9 a.m. Full numbers for October 1 registration data will be presented and discussed during the meeting. Funding adjustments will also be directed to staff, based on the data.
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