Public school enrollment declined slightly this fall while the number of homeschooled students in Montana spiked. State education officials released the new data Wednesday.
State education officials say the homeschool population increased by 62 percent this fall with the addition of nearly 3,640 students. Office of Public Instruction spokesperson Dylan Klapmeier says the data suggests that a nearly 2 percent drop in public school enrollment was due to parents of elementary-aged students largely shifting to homeschooling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Anecdotally, we have heard from parents that their high school students are more easily able to adapt to the distance learning than elementary students might be able to,” Klapmeier said.
High school enrollment statewide actually increased while students at the elementary level accounted for most of the public school declines. Private schools also lost roughly 700 students.
Klapmeier says there will be a second student count this spring. OPI averages out the counts in October and February to calculate state education funding. If younger students don’t return to the classroom by this spring, elementary schools could see their funding fall significantly. Lawmakers on the state house education committee have said they’re eager to provide a legislative fix.
This comes as Gov. Steve Bullock announced he is providing districts with another $13 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding for needs and projects through the end of the year.