Arizona public schools enrollment improves, still below pre-pandemic levels

Mar 8, 2022, 4:35 AM
(File Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Vera Bradley)...
(File Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Vera Bradley)
(File Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Vera Bradley)

PHOENIX — Enrollment in Arizona’s public schools increased slightly compared to last school year, but it hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels.

Newly released data by the Arizona Department of Education show the number of students currently attending K-12 public schools statewide increased by about 20,300 students, or nearly 1.8%, compared to last school year.

District schools saw an enrollment increase of 2.57%, while charter schools saw enrollment drop by 0.62%.

Notable gains were also made for preschool and kindergarten. Enrollment for those grade levels rose by nearly 10%. There was also an estimated 11% increase in enrollment for English language learners this school year compared to last.

“These official enrollment figures show that students are returning to public school classrooms after last year’s drop in enrollment,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a statement. “Statewide and local re-engagement efforts were clearly successful in helping students return to the classroom this school year.”

Many Arizona families unenrolled or became otherwise disengaged with their child’s public school at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. That led to significant enrollment declines for Arizona’s public schools.

In response, the Arizona Department of Education created the Ready for School AZ campaign last summer. It was focused on students and families at high-risk of being unenrolled or not re-engaging with their public school.

The latest numbers show improvements have been made, but school enrollment is still below what it was before the pandemic.

There were 1,150,806 students enrolled during the 2019-20 school year. This year, a total of 1,132,567 students are enrolled. That’s a difference of more than 18,000 students.

Hoffman acknowledged more work is needed to fully return student counts to pre-pandemic norms.

“It is imperative for the state to be laser-focused on providing resources to classrooms and recruiting and retaining qualified educators to meet the needs of our students,” she said.

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Arizona public schools enrollment improves, still below pre-pandemic levels