Department of Education shows dip in student enrollment for 2021-22 school year

More than 9,000 fewer students have enrolled in West Virginia public schools for the 2020-21 school year. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) reported the latest enrollment during the November 2020, meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE). The decrease in students is mostly attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the school system.

The decreased enrollment represents an estimated $42.7 million loss in school funding for the 2021-22 school year, which translates into the potential elimination of hundreds of positions for professional personnel (including classroom teachers) and service personnel.

According to the Oct. 1, 2020, certified headcount enrollment, 252,357 students are enrolled in public schools in the state. This number, a decrease of 9,276 students since last year, includes those who are participating in virtual and in-person instruction. Virtual school enrollment is 47,960 for the state.

“This is an issue that will have to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session,” said WVBE President Miller Hall. “We anticipate a significant portion of these students will return to public school once we have a vaccine and families feel more comfortable with that decision.”

In other WVBE news, Shannon McBee, epidemiologist with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, updated the Board on COVID-19 transmission rates in public school settings. Since the beginning of school, 84 outbreaks have been reported. An outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/staff from separate households, within a 14-day period in a single classroom or core group.

McBee said that of the 357 confirmed cases in schools, 56 percent (199) have occurred among staff and 44 percent (158) among students. This represents less than 1 percent of the more than 204,000 students that have chosen in-person instruction testing positive for COVID-19. In most instances, infections have occurred outside of the school and are brought into the building.

“We believe school is a safe place because of the protocols in place; however, we have to maintain best public health practices, especially mask-wearing, when we are outside of school,” said State Board of Education President Miller Hall. “We are all in this together and our actions affect one another.”

“We may be fatigued, but we have to maintain vigilance in order to keep our schools and related activities open and on track,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “The pandemic is not over, and we have to be consistent to protect the health of our students, teachers, families and communities.”

Enrollment data for the 2020-21 school year is available at https://zoomwv.k12.wv.us/Dashboard/dashboard/28116.

For more information, contact Christy Day at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or ChristyDay@k12.wv.us.