Fulton County Schools reports largest enrollment decline on record

Fulton County Schools reported its largest enrollment drop on record this year, a decrease the district attributed to the pandemic.

The system enrolled 90,376 students for the 2020-2021 school year, down 3,572 students, or roughly 3.8%, from the prior year, according to a report presented at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

District documents noted the decline was below enrollment projections, and it signaled “the largest population decline on record.”

“This substantial drop in enrollment can be attributed to implications caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” the report stated. “Projections were developed pre-COVID which did not include assumptions for social distance and enrollment anxieties and fears associated with the pandemic.”

Public school systems across the state saw student numbers fall by about 2.2% this year, according to the Georgia Department of Education. Reasons cited include fewer kindergarten students. Kindergarten is not required in Georgia. Many districts began the year only online, a format that’s more challenging for younger students.

Yngrid Huff, the Fulton district’s executive director of operational planning, told board members that “many parents have grappled with decisions on when and where to enroll their children” this year.

She said more parents enrolled students in homeschool programs or study pods.

District officials expect enrollment to bounce back a bit next school year. They currently project numbers will increase by about 1.7% to a total of 91,946 students.

“Hopefully this last year was the only year of this anomaly, and we will start approaching back to what our expectations are for the future,” said board President Julia Bernath.