New Mexico school enrollment flat even though kids in class

December 11, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico public schools have not recovered from the 4% drop in enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic despite the return to in-person schooling.

The state had already seen enrollment decline around 1% following years of fewer births and an aging population. The closure of school doors last year accelerated the decline, as many families opted to homeschool instead of attending virtual schools.

Public school enrollment from pre-K through high school stayed virtually flat this year at 318,608, marking a decrease of 13 students compared to last fall, according to data released by the education department.

In Albuquerque, kindergarten represented the largest drop in enrollment last year, but administrators hoped they’d be back, even at the risk of overflowing classrooms. But there was no rebound. In fact, enrollment is slightly down in all grade levels this year.

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“In some cases they’re staying home. Some may be in private schools. And some — we wonder if they’ve left the state,” said Albuquerque Superintendent Scott Elder.

Because school funding is directly tied to enrollment, Albuquerque had a $35 million hole in the budget last year, filled with one-time federal funds.

Home school enrollment accounted for around half of the enrollment decline across the state last year, from around 8,800 to 15,400. This year homeschooling is slightly down, at 10,300.

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This version corrects that statewide fall enrollment was 318,608, not 318,621, and that the overall decrease was 13 students, not an increase of 13 students.