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News Release - Preliminary data shows 3.3% decrease in 2020 school enrollment with biggest drop in early grades

Dec. 15, 2020

Preliminary data shows 3.3% decrease in 2020 school enrollment with biggest drop in early grades

Homeschooling enrollment doubles during the pandemic, according to the early estimates 

DENVER -- Colorado public schools posted the first decrease in year-to-year enrollment in more than 30 years due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, according to preliminary data released today by the Colorado Department of Education. 

Due to the intense interest about this year’s enrollment, the department is releasing the initial data to the public earlier than usual. This information is preliminary with the possibility that districts will continue to refine and correct their data by the end of the year, which will alter some of the data points. The final results are expected to be confirmed by the middle of January.

Overall, Colorado schools posted an estimated 3.3% decrease in enrollment this fall compared to 2019 with 29,942 fewer students in preschool through 12th grade. The preliminary figures show the total statewide enrollment for preschool to 12th grade was 883,281 when students were counted in October. The last time the state saw a decrease in pupil enrollment was the fall of 1988. 

The largest decreases in the preliminary count were in the earlier grades with 8,009 fewer students in preschool for a 23.3% drop and 5,798 fewer kindergartners for a 9.1% decrease. An estimated 13,802 fewer first through fifth graders were counted in Colorado schools in 2020 compared to 2019 -- a 4.2% drop.

Among races and ethnicities, white students had the highest number change in the preliminary count with 19,721 fewer students in 2020 compared to 2019, a 4.1% decline. American Indian or Alaska native had the highest percent drop with 5.8% fewer students in 2020 than in 2019.

The numbers of students reported as homeschooled doubled with 15,773 students counted this fall compared to 7,880 in 2019. A total of 32,321 students registered in online educational programs this year - 9,873 more students than 2019 or 44% increase.  

Approximately 141 of the state’s 178 school districts reported drops in enrollment with nearly 40 districts reporting increasing enrollment, according to the preliminary data.

Biggest Enrollment Decreases

District 2020 Enrollment Difference from 2019 Percent change
Douglas County 62,979 -4,326 -6.4%
Jefferson County 80,088 -3,960 -4.7%
Denver Public Schools 89,061 -3,051 -3.3%
Aurora Public Schools 37,907 -2,181 -5.5%
Colorado Springs D-11 23,885 -2,155 -8.2%
Adams 12 Five Star 36,654 -2,053 -5.2%
Cherry Creek 53,167 -2,005 -3.6%
Boulder Valley 29,240 -1,760 -5.6%
St. Vrain Valley 31,312 -1,543 -4.7%
Poudre 29,417 -1,337 -4.4%

Race and Ethnicity Data

Racial/Ethnic Group Students enrolled Oct. 2020 % Change from 2019
American Indian or Alaska native 5,849 -5.8%
Asian 28,425 -2.7%
Black or African American 40,424 -2.7%
Hispanic or Latino 301,887 -2.6%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 2,453 +0.8%
Two or more races 40,913 +0.3%
White 463,330 -4.1%

Follow this link to access the complete 2020-21 school year student count information. 

Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible Students

This year there was an decrease in the number of pre-K through 12th grade students eligible for free and reduced price meals, a measurement of poverty. A total of 354,918 students are eligible for free or reduced price meals or 40% of the state’s total student population. That represents a 16,886-student decrease from 2019.  There are concerns that these figures do not accurately represent the actual number of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals based upon household income. The US Department of Agriculture has allowed for school breakfasts and school lunches to be provided to all students at no cost for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19. Additionally, some students were in a remote learning environment during the first part of the school year. These two factors likely reduced the number of students that completed the application for free and reduced meals. Therefore, the number of free and reduced lunch eligible students is likely higher than these numbers reflect.

English Learners

In the fall, 113,850 students were reported as receiving English learner services or being monitored after being exited from an English learner program. This is a decrease of 9,398 students from the previous year. This year 12.9% of Colorado’s students are considered English learners.

Special Education Students

A total of 11.8% of the state's public school students, or 104,610 students, were reported in the fall as receiving special education services. This represents a decrease of 1,628 students since fall of 2019.

Gifted and Talented Students

As of this fall, 65,494 students were identified as gifted and talented or 7.4% of the state’s total student population, which is an decrease of 1,489 students since fall of 2019.

Student October Count

The Student October Count is based on a predetermined time period in October that can vary for each district based on their adopted academic calendar.