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After Years Of Growth, CPS' Enrollment Drops 3.9% Since Oct. 2019

Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Mar. 15, 2021 meeting)
At least 4,826 students have withdrawn from the district this school year.

Cincinnati Public Schools enrollment has dropped 3.9% since Oct. 2019. Nearly 5,000 students withdrew from the district during the 2020-21 school year.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Mar. 15, 2021 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Mar. 15, 2021 meeting)

At least 38 schools within the district have seen more than 40 students withdraw. Multiple schools have lost more than 100 students, including Gamble Elementary, John. P. Parker, Kilgour, Oyler, Rees E Price, Walnut Hills and Western Hills.

Most students who withdrew either went to another public or charter school, left Ohio, went to private school, or left their CPS preschool.

Enrollment of pre-K students saw the largest decrease in net enrollment from Oct. 2019 to March 2021 with a drop of roughly 900 students. First through eighth grade also saw a drop of roughly 800 students within the same timeframe.

In 2019, it was reported that CPS' enrollment saw an increase of over 4,462 students since 2013.

In February, board members raised concerns about enrollment affecting the budget for the next school year. If projections of lower enrollment are factored into the budgeting process, it could mean that significant layoffs could occur within the school district. If students don't return to the district, funds across CPS - including the Student Wellness Fund, dedicated to "the physical, social, emotional and intellectual aspects of (a) child's well-being" - could drop.

Board member Eve Bolton says budget-wise, the district should aim higher than the current enrollment projections, but this could result in overstaffing. She says she has confidence in the district's recruiting plans.

"COVID and post-COVID is probably going to require greater staffing than more normal years," Bolton said.

In July 2020, 179 positions were reduced due to budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last October, it was revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic cost CPS more than $42 million.

Return To In-Person Learning

Last week, the board voted 4-3 to return all schools to five days of in-person learning for the remainder of the school year. Families can choose between in-person or distance learning through the online platform Schoology. The in-person option will require mask wearing and other COVID protocols, but social distancing may not be at the CDC recommendation of six feet in some cases.

Phasing into this plan could begin by March 31. Walnut Hills will be phased in by grade level for staff members to learn new safety protocols. Seventh through ninth graders would transition back March 31, then 10th through 12th graders would transition back the following week.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.