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Public School Enrollment in N.H. Drops During Pandemic

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Amanda Loder for NHPR
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Fewer students in New Hampshire are attending their neighborhood public school this year, according to new data from the state Department of Education.

The state typically sees a one percent drop in public school enrollment each year, due to aging demographics, but this fall’s decline is far more significant: about four percent statewide.

In some cities, like Manchester and Nashua, that decline was slightly higher.  

School district officials are attributing this shift to the number of families who, amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, opted to homeschool or send their kids to private schools offering full in-school education.

But the enrollment patterns look different in some recreational and North Country towns. Waterville Valley, for instance, saw enrollment skyrocket by 200 percent as families relocated to condos and vacation homes during the pandemic. Holderness, Gorham and Berlin reported an increase in enrollment as well, though less dramatic.

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Credit Graphics by Sara Plourde/NHPR
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These changes have financial consequences for districts, since much of state funding is determined by the number of enrolled students.

As districts begin planning for next year’s budgets, some leaders say they're not sure if students who left will return after the pandemic, and whether newcomer families will want to to stick around longterm.

In an interview with NHPR earlier this month, education commissioner Frank Edelblut advised districts to plan based on this year's count.

"Hopefully they can bake that in and build that into their budgeting process, as they go forward and they see the number of students that they're going to be supporting in next year's education," he said.

To see the N.H. Department of Education's roster of town enrollment numbers compared to last year, click here.

Read more of NHPR’s COVID & The Classroom stories hereEmail us tips and questions about what you’re seeing, or photos of remote learning, to education@nhpr.org

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