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Chicago district reports sizable enrollment drop amid pandemic

Oct. 20, 2020
The nation's third-largest district has about 14,500 fewer students than it did a year ago.

Amid a pandemic and remote learning, the Chicago school district is reporting its biggest decline in student enrollment in two decades.

WBEZ Radio reports that enrollment in the city's school district down by about 4% or about 14,500 fewer students this year compared with last year.

This accelerates a downward trend over the last nine years. Just a decade ago, the school system had nearly 403,000 students. This year, the official enrollment count is at 340,658.

But Chicago’s enrollment loss is not unique. This year, most big city school districts have seen enrollment drops of between 3% and 5%, says Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools.

In Chicago and many other school districts across the nation, much of the drop is attributed to preschoolers and kindergartners deciding not to enroll. Chicago says 41% of its enrollment drop is in pre-K.

The Chicago school district plans to resume in-person learning in November for preschool students and some students with disabilities.The plan is for all other students to continue remote learning, with the possibility of additional grades resuming in-person learning as early as January.

Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said she is deeply concerned about thousands of four- and five-year-old children sitting out of school for months.

“We need our pre-K and kindergarten students in school and learning and preparing,” McDade said. “These are the foundational years.”

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