Alabama's superintendent said more than 5,000 public school students in the state have not shown up for any classes this year — virtual or in-person.
Superintendent Eric Mackey said the drop in enrollment could lead to job losses for hundreds of teachers, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
“It’s a very difficult year instructionally and that doesn’t even touch the surface on the issues we will have with these 5,000 students who are not in school and we don’t know where they are,” he said, according to the AP.
Mackey said a small number of the students have likely chosen to enroll in private schools, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. While more students have started to return, they will not be reflected in the official enrollment count that ended 20 days after Labor Day.
The enrollment decline may pose financial challenges since school districts are funded by the state based on official student tallies, according to the news outlet. Mackey said he is trying to determine whether the funding formula could be altered to avoid a budget shortfall.
"I have every expectation that once the pandemic ends, all of those students will come back," Mackey said, according to the Advertiser. "The instructional problem will exist, but hopefully financial issues will be taken care of.”
Multiple schools in the state announced temporary shifts to online learning last week due to rising coronavirus cases, AL.com reported.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted school districts across the country to switch to virtual learning or limit the number of students attending in-person classes. Those changes led the National Center for Education Statistics to postpone national reading and math assessments for fourth and eight grade students until next year.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported 241,957 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, with 3,572 deaths in the state.