By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State Superintendent Eric Mackey said K-12 school enrollment has increased by about 3,300 recently, but is still down more than 6,000 students from last year likely because of COVID-19 and disruptions the pandemic has caused.
“That really is a testament to the good work of our local school systems, superintendents, principals, they’ve been sending out resources officers, social workers, making phone calls and they have identified many of these students and brought them back,” Mackey told state board of education members at their Thursday meeting.
Official enrollment numbers are calculated as the average daily membership, or ADM, of K-12 students and are reported for 20 days following Labor Day. According to state data, this school year’s ADM shows 717,000 students. That is down from the more than 727,000 students enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year.
On Thursday, Mackey said school enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year is now over 720,000 again.
Alabama Daily News previously reported that school leaders were concerned about the a loss of state funding caused by their drops in ADM. State funding is based on prior year enrollment. Educators said they hoped the Legislature would make an exception in next year’s budget.
The biggest loss of students is among kindergarteners with around 3,000 fewer attending in 2020 than in 2019. Mackey said the department doesn’t have records of those missing kindergarteners because they are children that haven’t been registered yet and Alabama does not require kindergarten.
Mackey says he believes the majority of those students will return next school year but there is a concern that most of the young students will just skip kindergarten and go straight to first grade, missing important math and reading developmental skills.
“That will be an instructional issue for us in many ways,” Mackey said.