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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Preliminary data show a 2.5% increase in public school enrollment in 2021

Preliminary data on enrollment trends for Montana schools, released Nov. 23, 2021.
Montana Office of Public Instruction
Preliminary data on enrollment trends for Montana schools, released Nov. 23, 2021.

Pandemic-related declines in public school enrollment are showing signs of reversing. Preliminary data released Tuesday by state education officials show public schools saw a 2.5 percent enrollment increase this fall over last.

The state’s Office of Public Instruction shows over 149,000 students enrolled in Montana’s public schools. State School Superintendent Elsie Arntzen says these are only preliminary numbers and won’t be verified until late December.

"But the trend is that elementary students have come back. Our high-school population pretty much stayed the same with a little bit of growth last year."

Arntzen says that slight growth could also indicate something else is happening.

"Quite possibly it’s an indication of new Montana families that have enrolled their children in public schools."

OPI’s enrollment report also shows private school enrollment jumped over 13 percent this fall, the highest in 14 years.

Registered homeschool enrollment declined over 25 percent. Still, OPI says that marks the second-highest enrollment in the last three decades, with last year being the highest.

The next enrollment tally takes place in February. OPI averages the fall and spring head counts to calculate state education funding.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at