BILLINGS- New numbers collected from Montana’s Office of Public Instruction show Montana parents may be taking a conservative approach to putting their children inside the classroom during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The data shows as public-school enrollment declines, homeschooling is on the rise in a big way.
The number of students who identified as homeschooled increased by 69.7% or 4,053 more students, according to numbers provided by OPI.
In a release, Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen announced updated preliminary student enrollment numbers after all Montana school districts and counties submitted their data.
Those with OPI say district data surrounding enrollment is collected every October and February.
“Montana continues to see a drop in public elementary school enrollment and an increase in public high school enrollment,” said Arntzen in a news release.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic and a “new normal” of distance learning as an option for many parents and school districts, the numbers aren’t all too surprising.
“The OPI looks forward to continuing to work with local school administrators to analyze this data and determine the impacts of COVID-19 on student engagement and learning,” said Artnzen.
Montana’s districts are responding to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Still, data shows parents are opting to keep little ones at home and even take on the challenges of homeschooling.
The report showed elementary school enrollment numbers, as well as private school enrollment numbers, decreased.
Montana saw a 3.8% decrease in K-8 public school enrollment, and data shows private schools saw a decrease of 3.1%, or 245 fewer students enrolled.
But it’s a different story for kids attending high school, as Montana saw an increase of 2.1% public high school enrollment.
Artnzen says OPI will continue to work with local districts during the pandemic to hear concerns and adjust based on needs.
“As Montana’s public schools have responded strongly to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also had multiple conversations with school leaders, legislators, and most recently with county superintendents,” she said.
Schools have until Dec. 31 to certify or revise their data.