- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2020

DENVER (AP) - Enrollment in Colorado public schools has dropped by about 30,000 students this year, or 3%, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first year-to-year decrease in the state public school system reported in over 30 years, officials said.

The state Department of Education announced preliminary enrollment figures on Tuesday after students were counted in October, The Colorado Sun reported.

Some of the state’s 178 school districts suffered 10% enrollment decreases during the academic year, officials said, citing concerns about district budgets which are based on student counts.

School districts could suffer significant financial losses depending on how the Legislature decides to fund education during the next legislative session, said Colorado School Finance Project Executive Director Tracie Rainey.

“It could be devastating if they make a reduction,” Rainey said. “There is no way that school districts could absorb that kind of cut.”

Enrollment at Denver Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, was reported at 89,061 students, about 3,000 students less than in October 2019.

Enrollment at Colorado Springs School District 11 experienced the largest percentage decline with 23,885 students enrolled this fall, 2,155 students less than last year, or about a 8% drop.

Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Okes said the declines in enrollment happened in part because of remote learning and because more families chose to homeschool their children to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The number of students being homeschooled this year doubled to 15,773 this year from 7,880 in 2019, department officials said.

It’s not yet clear if the decline in enrollment is a long-term affect of the pandemic.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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