Atlanta school enrollment decline could mean less funding next year

Atlanta Public Schools enrolled about 1,400 fewer students this school year, a 2.7% decline that could result in millions less in state funding next year.

The district had 51,012 students this year, down from 52,416 students last year, according to state numbers released this month. APS had been gradually adding students each year since 2012, when it enrolled 49,558 students.

APS estimates it could receive roughly $4 million less next year in state funding, which is based on enrollment counts.

Enrollment dropped across the state this year. The Georgia Department of Education reported that public school enrollment statewide is down about 2.2%.

The number of students in kindergarten, which is not compulsory in Georgia, fell the most. Officials said the trend is likely related in part to the pandemic and the challenge younger students have trying to learn online.

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In Atlanta, kindergarten enrollment fell 822 students compared to last year. The district also has a couple hundred fewer prekindergarten students, though officials said it has fluctuated throughout the fall.

”Based on what we’ve learned from talking to families, they are grappling with complex and changing needs. Some families have opted to enroll in face-to-face programs, rely on families/friends, or are simply hoping to wait a year for their child to participate in (prekindergarten),” the district said in a written statement.

The district switched to online learning in mid-March at the start of the pandemic and said it will continue in a virtual format until at least January. Last week, APS allowed high-needs students to return to buildings for some additional help. The hours for those programs are limited, and it’s not a replacement for online classes.