BOSTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Enrollment in Massachusetts Public Schools has dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools in Massachusetts have seen a decline of more than 37,000 students so far this school year.

According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), public school enrollment has dropped almost 4%. There are 17,000 fewer preschool and kindergarten students. And 13,000 students have moved to private schools or homeschooling.

Russell Johnston, the former superintendent of West Springfield Schools, now with DESE, said at a board of directors meeting Tuesday that they're still tracking about 7,000 students who did not enroll this year.

“I would speculate that the volatility is students perhaps moving out of state or out of country, and a lack of information to the school department because families' lives are in flux right now,” Johnston said.

State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said many of the students in this group opted out of in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The loss here is for the pre-k and kindergarten students and we expect that many of those children will be back in our system for next year,” Riley said. “The parents have just opted to keep the kids home for the year rather than start in the system.”

According to other data from state officials, a majority of students are now considered high needs learners.

It’s typical for Massachusetts to lose a few thousand students from public schools on a year to year basis, but so far, this school year is presenting the biggest drop.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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