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Colorado public school enrollment ticked up last year, but still below pre-pandemic levels

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s public school enrollment ticked up last year but still remains nearly 27,000 students below its pre-pandemic level, the Department of Education (CDE) said Wednesday. 

In all, 886,517 preschool through 12th grade students were counted in October 2021, when the state does its annual pupil count. The total is an increase of 3,318 students, or 0.4 percent, compared to 2020’s enrollment figures, but still down from 913,223 students in 2019, according to CDE

The last time the state’s enrollment total was at 886,517 or lower was in 2013, the department said. 

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According to the state’s data, 60 of the state's 178 school districts saw enrollment declines last year. Districts with the largest enrollment decreases were Jefferson County, Cheyenne Mountain 12, and Las Animas RE-1. 

Both homeschool and online learning programs also saw enrollment rates decline last year, CDE found. The number of students attending homeschool fell by more than 33 percent to 10,500 last year compared to the more than 15,000 that attended in 2020. 

Online learning programs registered just over 31,000 students compared to the 32,034 that were counted last year. 



One grade level that saw significant enrollment increases was preschool, which welcomed 4,478 new students in 2021, representing a 16.95 percent increase when compared to 2020. Kindergarten also saw 3,868 more students in 2021 than it did the year before, a 6.65 percent increase. 

Gov. Jared Polis has made it one of his legislative priorities to increase enrollment in these grades. Lawmakers passed a bill during the last legislative session that established the Department of Early Childhood, a new state agency that is tasked with increasing enrollment in preschool programs.

Polis has also earmarked an investment of more than $13 million for the new department in his fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, of which more than $5 million will come from the general fund.