The district has 439,013 students in preschool through 12th grade, compared to 466,229 last year at this time, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited an annual count known as “norm day,” made on the fifth Friday of every new school year.
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The data is expected to be presented at Tuesday’s meeting of the district’s Board of Education.
Although the drop was much larger than recent declines, an LAUSD official told the newspaper the number was not a complete surprise, coming amid years of declining enrollment related to lower birth rates, families moving for financial reasons and other factors.
“We’re still seeing the impact of COVID,” said Veronica Arreguin, the district’s chief strategy officer. “If it’s (the enrollment decline) something we can change, we need to change.”
Enrollment in K-12 public schools fell by almost 3% statewide last year, according to the California Department of Education. It’s unclear how much of that decline is due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down campuses last year and forced children to engage in remote instruction.
The LAUSD board is also expected to discuss an ongoing problem with filling vacancies in teaching and other posts at its meeting Tuesday. According to the Times, there are 622 teacher vacancies, 334 for building and grounds workers, 189 for nurses, more than 600 for psychiatric social workers, and 272 unfilled teacher positions for a special program to teach math and English in young students below grade level.
That problem could be exacerbated by the district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. All L.A. Unified employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct.15. According to the district, between 70% and 80% of school staff are on target to meet that goal, but that could still leave thousands of employees facing possible termination.