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About 30,000 Colorado students chose not to enroll in public schools this year

Posted at 5:04 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-05 15:09:33-05

DENVER — The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the way many families view education.

For Jennifer DeJulio, it meant taking her son out of Brighton 27-J.

"We just kept getting emails from the district, don’t worry about what they’re learning, all we’re concerned with is your family’s emotional needs," DeJulio said. "Well, I think I’m pretty good emotionally. How about we talk educationally?"

She tried out the K-12 Colorado Preparatory Academy and after that didn’t work out, she made the decision to go with homeschooling.

"He loves it, I feel like he’s learning," DeJulio said.

For the first time in 30 years, Colorado public school enrollment dropped by 30,000 students. DeJulio and her son are just one of many who decided to find a different path.

"I think a lot of parents are wanting consistency right now and they aren’t really confident in the school district’s approach," said life coach for Homeschool Moms, Laura Garn.

But it isn't only parents in search of consistency.

Elise Myren and her brother, Dane Myren, are students within Denver Public Schools. Dane says many of his friends are considering completely dropping out and believes the district’s plan to return to in-person learning isn’t realistic.

"Most of the families know that’s not going to happen but the administration wants to make it look like they’re doing something," said Dane Myren.

If students don’t return, it could mean a financial mess for many school districts. Especially when the legislature decides on how to fund education during the next lawmaking session.

"By the time they would do that a district would have maybe four to five months to try and absorb that kind of loss and I’m not really even sure how districts could do that," said executive director of the Colorado School Finance Project, Tracie Rainey.

Denver Public Schools, projected to be down about 3,000 students this fall, says the numbers are concerning, particularly with elementary students.

"We’re monitoring the budget impacts very closely, we’re planning how to adjust for those this year but it’s obviously a concern," said Jim Carpenter, Chief Financial Officer of Denver Public Schools.

Weeks away from the start of a new year, presenting a new set of challenges for districts and families.