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State public schools enrollment drops for first time in 3 decades

Official figures show that public schools saw a 3.3% decrease in enrollment this past fall, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

DENVER — Enrollment in Colorado public schools dropped by 30,024 students, or 3.3%, this past fall from the previous year, according to the official count released Friday by the Colorado Department of Education.

This is the first decrease in enrollment in state public schools since 1988 and is due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education department said in a press release.

A total of 883,199 students were enrolled in preschool through 12th grade in public schools statewide when the count was taken in October.

The largest decreases were in the early grades. Preschool saw a 23.3% decrease, or 8,009 fewer students. In kindergarten, the drop was 9.1%, or 5,800 students. And 13,833 fewer first- through fifth-graders were counted, which was a 4.2% drop from the year before.

> Video above: When school districts plan to return to in-person learning.

Meanwhile, the number of students reported as homeschooled doubled to 15,773 students, compared with 7,880 in 2019.

Enrollment in online educational programs increased 43%, or by 9,586 students, according to the education department.

Among races and ethnicities, white students had the largest number decrease in enrollment compared with 2019, with 19,759 fewer students. American Indian or Alaska native students had the largest percentage decrease, with 5.9% fewer students, according to the release.

Denver Public Schools continues to be the largest district in the state with 89,061 students, followed by Jeffco Public Schools (80,088), Douglas County School District (62,979), Cherry Creek School District (54,167) and Aurora Public Schools (37,907).

All of those districts saw an enrollment decrease from the year before. In the 2019 count, DPS had 92,112 students, Jeffco had 84,048, Douglas County had 67,305, Cherry Creek had 56,172, and Aurora had 40,088.

Of the state's 178 school districts, about 140 of them reported drops in enrollment, the education department said.

In the Denver metro area, which includes school districts in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas and Jefferson counties, total enrollment was 482,013 students, state officials reported.

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