Class during COVID hasn't been easy for any Massachusetts school districts, with some switching between remote and in-person learning as coronavirus case numbers rise and fall.
Now an alarming preliminary estimate from a superintendent survey in early September seems to signal that a large number of students are leaving public schools for either private schools or for homeschooling.
"It's likely that we're looking at something in the order of 40-50,000 students who will not be enrolled this year in comparison to last year," said Tom Scott, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
In the 2019-2020 school year, there were approximately 950,000 students enrolled in Massachusetts public schools. Losing 40-50,000 students is about a 5% drop year to year.
And that means a corresponding drop in per-pupil funding.
"We need to be thinking about how to address our budget going into FY22 with that reality," Scott said.
He says the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents is currently re-surveying superintendents for more precise enrollment numbers.
But parents whose kids are currently enrolled in private schools – like St. Bridget School in Framingham – say they're seeing evidence of the shift first-hand.
"I did hear that St. Bridget's had a waiting list," parent Jacqueline Fitzpatrick said.
"I think there's like ten more students per class," added parent Megan Ocasio.
But they say for many parents it comes down to wanting or needing their children to physically be in school -- learning.
"I feel very fortunate. I'm just fortunate every day that they're getting a good education and they are in school," parent Erin Maltbie said.
"I think parents need to work and people need to get out so they're going to put their kids where their kids can go," Ocasio added.
It's unclear at this point when the data from the current survey will be in and what the actual drop in enrollment will be.