An analysis done by The Associated Press and Chalkbeat of 33 states has found that school attendance this fall dropped by 2 percent or about 500,000 students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The report found that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on education in the U.S. as students and educators have had to find new ways to conduct lessons.
The drop in school attendance is expected to rise as the remaining 17 U.S. states make their attendance numbers known.
The analysis by the AP and Chalkbeat found that kindergarten enrollment accounted for 30 percent of the total reduction across the states they observed. Kindergarten is not required in many states, leading some parents to not send their children.
Enrollment in the 33 states covered in the report had been increasing by at least half a percentage point per year, underscoring the importance of this year's decline.
Many parents, like Angela Atkins, who the AP profiled in their article, have pulled their children from school and opted for homeschooling instead. Atkins told the AP she pulled her kids from school out of concern for their mental health and feeling as though she had no other options.
However many educators are concerned that some students have been pulled from school and are not receiving any form of education at all.
“I would like to hope that many of them are from homes where their parents have taken responsibility on their own to provide for their education,” said Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.
Noguera told the AP, “My fear is that large numbers have simply gotten discouraged and given up.”
Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump on what would prevent 2024 bid: 'I guess a bad call from a doctor' Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Fauci: 'Worst time' for a government shutdown is in middle of pandemic MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has advocated for keeping schools open amid the pandemic, stating that children need school for both their psychological and nutritional welfare.
Though may younger students, such as those in kindergarten, are expected to return to school as people are vaccinated and case numbers fall, there are concerns that older students who see an interruption in going to school because of the pandemic may not resume their educations.
Data released early in December indicated that elementary and middle school students had fallen behind in their math scores, another way the coronavirus has negatively impacted students. The students who have been most impacted by the virus tend to be those in lower-income households.
Having a laptop and secure internet connection have become essential for many students this year who are learning from home. This requirement, however, excludes many students who may not have access to these resources.
Many school districts have attempted to locate the missing students, the AP reports, but several factors may prevent them from finding where the students have gone. Many states do not require families to register home-schooled students while others may have dropped out due to homelessness or to care for their COVID-19-impacted family members.