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Parents Flee Public Schools As Anti-Science School Closings Continue

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Hanna Panreck Contributor
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As coronavirus continues to affect students by prolonging public school reopenings despite science pointing to little COVID-19 spread in classrooms, many parents have been pulling their kids from the public school system.

The Austin, Texas, school district saw a 6.9% enrollment drop since last year, according to the Austin-American Statesman. Specifically, in the Austin school district, there are 2,676 fewer kindergarten students and pre-kindergarten students enrolled this year.

Austin mother Megan Olshavsky opted to keep her son Jonah in his private Montessori school instead of sending him to kindergarten, the Statesman reported in October.

“We feel good about the decision,” she told the Statesman. “He’s in a place with teachers he knows, where he can interact with other kids and be where he feels comfortable.” She also said that his preschool was less restrictive than kindergarten would have been in terms of masking, and said that they didn’t have plastic barriers up at desks.

Based on surveys from parents, district officials still believe less than half of students will return to the classroom this year.

The Austin district reopened for in-person instruction on Oct. 5, according to the Statesman, but some surrounding districts opened sooner.

Enrollment decline can also affect Texas school systems financially. Officials in Texas may have to resort to cutting staff or other programs if it doesn’t bounce back, according to the Statesman.

Almost one quarter, 24.2%, of surveyed private schools reported an increase in enrollment, according to an October study done by the CATO institute. Fifty-six percent reported a decrease in enrollment, the CATO institute’s study found.

Berkley Prep, a private school located in Tampa, has seen a high volume of phone calls from parents interested in enrolling their students, according to Bay 9 News.

“We started hearing from out of state people at a little bit higher rate than we normally would have back in April and May and into the early summer,” Berkley Prep Director of Admissions Jay Lasley told Bay 9 News.

Some parents were looking to move to the area because of their ability to reopen, according to Bay News 9. “They were moving from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Chicago and major metropolitan areas in the midwest and northeast,” Lasley said.

“Our admission numbers, our application volume is almost double what it normally is or what it was this time last year,” Lasley told the outlet.

The National Association of Schools said, according to Bay News 9, that 58% of its schools are seeing an increase in enrollment interest.

The prevailing science surrounding school openings has been that students should be getting back to the classroom.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) refused to return to school in late January, saying that teachers needed to be vaccinated before resuming in-person schooling. The union then approved a deal on Feb. 10 with the Chicago Public Schools that said they would return to in-person instruction.

“Let me be clear. This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “The fact that CPS could not delay reopening a few short weeks to ramp up vaccinations and preparations in schools is a disgrace.”