(WGGB/WSHM) -- The latest information from the state shows a significant drop in enrollment at Massachusetts public schools.
A large portion of the 37,000 students are made up of pre-K and kindergarten students with an almost four percent decrease across the state.
According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, enrollment numbers have dropped in Chicopee Public Schools with a decrease of 365 students compared to last year--35 of those students kindergarteners.
"What we are assuming is behind those numbers is the choice that parents are making to keep their children back for a year." said DESE Associate Commissioner, Russell Johnston.
State-wide there are 17,000 fewer preschool and kindergarten students than last year.
Chicopee Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instructions and Accountability, Matthew Francis, tells Western Mass News he believes parents opted out because kindergarten is not a state mandate.
"I think with that and the uncertainty of where COVID was going to take different districts around the Commonwealth. I think parents and guardians and caregivers just felt that with that uncertainty it's just better off to keep them home," said Francis.
According to DESE, 13,000 students have moved to private schools or homeschooling.
"We anticipate that many of those students, if not most of those students, will be enrolling in the fall of 2021," said Russell Johnston. "We know that when we have the privilege of having students in front of us we will do everything we can to catch them up and have them ready for meeting those grade-level expectations."
Despite the drop in enrollment, Chicopee Public Schools has actually seen a positive outcome for last year's kindergarten class, retaining all students in first grade this year which is something district officials hope will continue to be a trend for next year.
"Hopefully we are back into a traditional educational setting so that we can get our kindergarten enrollment up so we can recapture some students who have gone to either virtual school or have applied and been accepted to homeschool," said Francis.
For parents who opted to keep their pre-K or kindergarten aged children at home this year, DESE officials recommend creating a language-enriched learning environment.
For more information from the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, CLICK HERE.