Enrollment declines crop up in public schools

Two months into the new school year, some communities are beginning to report enrollment declines, presumably an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The  Worcester school district lost 1,046 students, about 4.2 percent of last year’s total of 25,049, according to the Telegram & Gazette. It was the second year in a row that enrollment declined, and a large chunk of the decrease was at the prekindergarten and kindergarten levels.

Brian Allen, Worcester’s chief financial and operations officer, said more families have elected to keep younger students out of school during the coronavirus pandemic.

The drop could significantly impact the amount of state aid Worcester’s schools can expect, with a $10 million decrease in chapter 70 school aid possible next fiscal year under the state’s foundation formula.

The trend of younger students staying home and out of school could be a statewide phenomenon, according to Tracy O’Connell Novick, a member of the Worcester School Committee.

“They (the state) really need to see this as a massive aberration,” she said. “Essentially what we’re seeing is parents with little kids saying ‘this is not the year for us to do this,’ which I understand.”

In Lynn, a different set of issues has kept 743 public school students from logging on at all for remote learning. Sheila O’Neil, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, told MassLive that those students appear to include many second-language students, some of whom have moved. The district has sent registered letters and tried phone calls and emails to reach the parents.

The district hasn’t rolled out official enrollment numbers, but the attendance rates may be an indicator. Attendance rates have been 96 percent this year, O’Neil said, which translates to 15,009 of 15,752 students signing on for class.

Districts calculate their official enrollment counts on October 1, but it takes time to process the data and make sure students aren’t counted twice and figures for English-language learners are correct. The statistics are ultimately reported to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“My past experience is that the department posts those numbers later this month, once all the districts are in, and they’ve reconciled the differences around students who have moved and so forth,” Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick told CommonWealth. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Thursday that it will release its data on November 24.

The state’s shutdown of schools last spring when the pandemic hit likely is contributing to the dropoff in public school enrollment. Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week, at a press conference announcing a series of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, said he didn’t want to shut down schools again.

“Everybody’s concluded that closing schools last spring was probably a bad idea, okay?” Baker said. “And the basic message that’s coming out from most people this time is, schools aren’t spreaders, and it’s hugely important for the educational and social development of kids — and the psychological development of kids — that they be in school.”

SARAH BETANCOURT 

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

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Gov. Charlie Baker’s election investments, mostly on behalf of Republicans, yield relatively few gains.

Boston nonprofits, despite hefty losses due to the pandemic, are continuing to make voluntary in-lieu-of-tax payments to the city.

Opinion: Edward Lonergan and Mike Shea ask: Why is our friend, former FBI agent John Connolly, still behind bars?

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

Rachelle Cohen sighs at the stasis on Beacon HIll and wonders when House Speaker Robert DeLeo will finally pack it up and leave. (Boston Globe)

Bay State Banner’s Yawu Miller explores why there has been little progress on police reform on Beacon Hill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Plymouth man said his mother’s dying wish was to be buried beside her own mother in the family plot at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, but cemetery workers found an unmarked vault already occupying the space. (The Enterprise)

ELECTIONS

Secretary of State Bill Galvin said Massachusetts turnout exceeded the record of 3.3 million set in 2016. (MassLive) Galvin ripped President Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud in key battleground states. (Boston Herald)

The Trump campaign unleashes a barrage of legal challenges to vote counting in four pivotal states as the presidential election outcome remains in the balance, but Joe Biden has a clearer path to victory. (Washington Post)

Republican US Sen. Susan Collins of Maine won reelection on Wednesday in a campaign with an overall cost of $200 million. (Maine Public Radio)

After Republicans lost one seat in the state Senate and one in the House, state GOP chairman Jim Lyons said he thinks 2022 could “really be a chance for us to increase our ranks” without a presidential election on the ballot. (Boston Herald)

Joe Biden’s performance in heavily Latino areas of key states has concerned members of his party — and may have cost him Electoral College votes, according to groups and activists working to mobilize Latino voters. (Associated Press)

Post-election protests: US Sen. Ed Markey joins protesters on the Boston Common urging states to count every vote. (MassLive) Around 100 people turn out in Salem (The Salem News), another 40 in Andover (Eagle-Tribune), dozens in Worcester, including US Rep. Jim McGovern and Mayor Joe Petty (Telegram & Gazette), and more in Northampton (MassLive) for post-election rallies to “protect the vote” and count every ballot. Socialist groups are the major sponsors of a rally in Boston’s Nubian Square demanding equality for minorities as the votes are counted. (MassLive)

Campaigns spent a combined $60 million on this year’s two ballot questions, making the campaign among the most expensive in Massachusetts history. The bulk of the money was spent on the Right to Repair question. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The election exposed a polling crisis that is a catastrophe for American democracy. (The Atlantic) Not so fast with the piling on against polling, says Washington Post data analyst David Byler.

Two Democrats elected to House seats in New York will become the first gay black members of Congress. (New York Times)

To some black voters, the lack of a resounding rejection of President Trump signaled a clear victor: American racism. (Boston Globe)

In the central Massachusetts towns of Sutton and Webster, Joe Biden edged out President Trump by a single vote. (MassLive)

In Lowell, people reportedly made anti-Asian slurs and racist comments aimed at individuals standing in line to vote. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Restaurant owners who offer late-night dining say COVID-19 rules requiring them to close at 9:30 p.m. will hurt their businesses and may not help with taming the virus. (Telegram & Gazette)

Cambridge-based Biogen saw its stock soar nearly 44 percent on news of the Food and Drug Administration’s praise for its Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Teachers’ unions are urging a return to remote learning amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in schools. (Eagle-Tribune)

In Lynn, 743 students have not logged on to remote education this year, many of whom speak English as a second language and some of whom may have moved. The state does not have statewide statistics for how many kids are not participating in remote classes. (MassLive)

Westfield State University cancels all classes and orders students to stay in their dorms after 23 students test positive for COVID-19. (Berkshire Eagle)

Amid controversy, the president of Assumption University apologizes for a message that included a document with language hurtful to LGBTQ students. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

Traffic on the Sagamore Bridge will be reduced to two lanes Thursday night into Friday morning for maintenance work. (Cape Cod Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The US officially left the Paris climate accord on Thursday. (NPR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Another federal lawsuit has been filed against the Fall River Police Department, this time for deadly force in a shooting three years ago that killed a 19-year-old New Bedford man. (Herald News)

Philadelphia police release body-cam video of the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. (NPR)

The man accused of breaking into Gov. Charlie Baker’s home was released from probation in an earlier case, clearing the way for him to post bail in this case. (The Salem News)

MEDIA

Gannett posted a $31.3 million loss in the third quarter and a 19.5 percent year-over-year decline in revenue. (USA Today)

The New York Times hits 7 million digital subscribers. (New York Times)