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ACPS and CCS still trying to get enrollment numbers back up

Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 9:29 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Public school enrollment in Virginia still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. These rates are impacting Albemarle County Schools and Charlottesville City Schools.

While funding for the schools hasn’t really been hurt yet, it’s not about that. A spokesperson for ACPS says it’s not about the money, it’s about the mental health impacts on students and their socialization.

“The real impact would be on the children who are not in school, how are they being educated?” Phil Giaramita with Albemarle County Schools says. “What opportunities are there for them in the community and it’s hard for us. I mean, they’re not with us. So it’s hard for us to assess what that is.”

Giaramita says when children aren’t in the classroom, they aren’t getting that social and emotional aspect of learning that is often overlooked. COVID-19 changed a lot of that.

“The county was growing in student enrollment by about 2% a year, pretty close to that,” Giaramita said. “Then, of course, the pandemic hit and we were down about 700 students, so it had quite an impact, down by about 5% or so.”

Charlottesville City Schools saw similar results and is also working to bounce back.

“Comparing to FY20, we’re down still around 300 students or so,” Kim Powell with Charlottesville City Schools said. “We were down more than that last year, but we recovered approximately 75 to 100 of those students that were lost.”

It’s hard to pinpoint where these students are all going because it’s a combination of factors, including private schools and homeschools.

“We’ve seen the number of homeschool students increase by about 17% this year,” Giaramita said.

The fear is a lot of those students aren’t back to pre-pandemic socialization levels. Giaramita also says some parents are worried about masking kids.

“A concern that parents have, is how’s my child going to do under those restrictions, or in that kind of environment having not been in school for for a year,” Giaramita said. “One of the things that I think is important is that we’ve thought about that, too”

ACPS is taking the steps to fix that. Giaramita says they have hired mental health counselors and student safety coaches to help. He says they are also currently talking to mental health organizations in the community about engaging their services, and planning how that would work for students.

School funding did not decrease with enrollment, because of the Hold Harmless agreement, which Giaramita says means school divisions are not penalized for loss of enrollment during this pandemic period. This has helped both ACPS and CCS.

“We’re always here doing what we do and doing a lot of good work with our students,” Powell said.

Though Hold Harmless is currently protecting schools, ACPS says it could change in the new year, when it is reevaluated for the next school year. That’s when revenue could be impacted for schools if their enrollment numbers are still not where they used to be.

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