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WILL study: Online-only schools saw 3% drop in enrollment to start 2020

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(The Center Square) – Schools in Wisconsin in general saw a drop in enrollment to start the 2020 school year, but a new study by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty shows schools that started the year online-only experienced a larger drop. 

WILL this week said its research shows a huge drop in enrollment compared to the 2019 school year. 

“On average, districts saw a 2.67% decline in enrollment this year relative to 0.3% in previous years,” WILL research director Will Flanders wrote. “This represents a 790% increase in enrollment decline relative to previous years, and suggests an important impact of the pandemic on Wisconsin schools.”

Most of that 2.67% enrollment drop is because parents are enrolling fewer pre-K students.

Flanders said the drop in enrollment is more pronounced in schools that started the year all online. 

“Districts with exclusively virtual education saw a 3% decline in enrollment on average relative to other districts in the state,” Flanders noted. 

Some of the students, particularly pre-K students, are likely just staying home. But Flanders said there’s some evidence that other students are simply enrolling in choice schools. 

“The 44 districts in Wisconsin with virtual charters saw an increase of approximately 4.5% in enrollment on average relative to other districts,” Flanders wrote in the study. “It appears that many families are utilizing school choice to move to districts that did offer in-person instruction, or those that had established, effective means of online education. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent on policymakers to ensure that families have the ability to take advantage of all educational options that are available to them.”

The study comes as more parents and lawmakers in Wisconsin are calling for all students to return to in-person classes. 

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, on Thursday said the evidence clearly shows kids do better when they are learning in school. 

“The widespread, long-term closures of school buildings since March has been the poorest government decision of the pandemic,” Thiesfeldt said. “This decision will be impacting some of our students for a lifetime.”

Thiesfeldt heads the Assembly Committee on Education. He said he’s willing to ask Gov. Tony Evers to put school teachers near the top of the coronavirus vaccine list if it helps get kids back into classrooms. 

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p dir=”ltr”>“It is long past time for schools engaging exclusively in virtual instruction to reopen their schools to students. Those schools engaged in hybrid models should also transition to full-time. Preparations for this transition must begin immediately,” Thiesfeldt said, “All Wisconsin students should have the option to receive full-time, in-person instruction as soon as practicable following Christmas break.”

 



By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission