More than 5,000 students haven’t shown for school across Alabama

school across Alabama

Krista Johnson

Montgomery Advertiser

State Superintendent Eric Mackey speaks during a Covid-19 press conference at ADPH office in Montgomery, Ala., on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Alabama schools are facing an “instructional crisis,” state superintendent Eric Mackey said as preliminary enrollment reports show more than 5,000 students have not logged on or showe for class this year. 

“I’m very concerned about it,” Mackey said. “It’s a very difficult year instructionally and that doesn’t even touch the surface on the issues we will have with these 5,000 students who are not in school and we don’t know where they are.” 

Mackey said of those students who have not showed up, a small number likely chose to leave the public school system to enrolled in private schools. 

More students have started to return recently, he said, but they will not be reflected in the official enrollment count, which ends each year 20 days after Labor Day. 

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With school districts funded by the state based on that official count, the drop could present a major financial issue next year if the Legislature doesn’t alter the state funding formula. Currently the formula is set up for districts to receive funding for teacher units per so many students. 

Mackey warned that “hundreds of teaching jobs” could be cut next year. He is currently researching how the formula could be temporarily altered to avoid the short fall. One route could be to take the average enrollment number over the past couple years for districts and based the funding on that. 

“I have every expectation that once the pandemic ends, all of those students will come back,” Mackey said. 

“The instructional problem will exist, but hopefully financial issue will be taken care of,” he continued. 

Looking to next year, Mackey said he is hoping schools will be able to start focusing on addressing the educational gaps created as schools were closed and students were learning virtually. 

“It will be an instructional problem next year and the year after,” he said. 

In order to achieve this, he plans to ask the Legislature for additional funding to provide after school tutoring and summer school programs. While the state department has received summer school funding for 2021, Mackey said many districts will need to offer summer school for the next two to three years. 

“I think we’ll have to offer the most rigorous academic supports that we ever have,” he said. 

The finalized reports, which will show enrollment counts for each system, are expected next month. 

The public schools also saw a significant drop in enrollment in 2018, losing about 4,7000 students, but Mackey said this is more significant. 

“It’s widespread across the state,” Mackey said of the drop. “Only a couple dozen districts grew at all.”