Many metro Detroit schools see decline in enrollment after pandemic

Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 07:06:00-04

(WXYZ) — Parents around metro Detroit are in the process of enrolling their children for kindergarten next school year.

Comparing this school year to last, the state reported a significant decrease in enrollment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some parents turning to homeschooling or simply delaying kindergarten.

"The homeschooling thing definitely had to do with the pandemic more than anything else. Just keeping her safe," Danielle McCauley said.

McCauley, like other parents of 4- and 5-year-olds around metro Detroit, is weighing the pros and cons of sending her daughter, Laura, to kindergarten next year. She's looking at Fraser schools.

"If she has to be on the computer then I would absolutely have to pull her out and do homeschool because she will not sit on a computer for all those hours. She just won't," McCauley said.

"I trust our school district to keep our children safe. That's not the issue. She's fine with wearing a mask, washing her hands. It's just the instability of the back and forth, back and forth," another parent, Logan Madigan, said.

Madison added that homeschooling is on the table at her home, but she just enrolled her daughter, Loralei, in Wyandotte schools for kindergarten next year, where she said learning is face-to-face.

"So I'm hoping they will have the whole summer to find different things to do to make it that way all year," she said.

The Michigan Department of Education declined an interview but forwarded an op-ed written by State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice in December.

He said enrollment at Michigan's public schools has been on the decline for 10 years.

This year, with the pandemic, he said "parents of more than 17,000 students told their public school districts upon exiting this year that they were homeschooling their children," and that "Michigan has about 13,000 fewer kindergarten children than last year."

Detroit Public Schools Community District, the largest in the state, said it lost 1,000 kindergartners this year.

Fraser Schools lost 143 students, and Rochester Community Schools has about 400 fewer K-12 students.

"We certainly are looking forward to welcoming our kindergartners back to in-person instruction the fall," Rochester Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner said.

He said budget, staffing and transportation all depend on enrollment numbers, but health and safety come first.

As for fall, he said kindergarten numbers are looking strong, a sign of confidence.

"We've been able to vaccinate anyone in our staff that needed it. The vaccination is available publicly and we hope by July that we'll hit herd immunity," he said. "So I think that that gives people hope to return to some normalcy and I think we all long for normalcy."

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