5,000 Alabama students haven’t shown up for any sort of class

Some students may have enrolled at public schools or returned after the end of the official enrollment count

Preliminary reports indicate that more than 5,000 Alabama public school students haven’t shown up for any sort of classes - virtual or in-person - state Education Superintendent Eric Mackey said.

The students are likely to have a hard time catching up, and the enrollment drop could mean losing hundreds of teachers, 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,” he said.

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Because the state funding formula is based on enrollment, losing students could hit next year’s budget hard. Mackey told the Montgomery Advertiser he’s hoping the state Legislature will make a temporary change to avoid that, perhaps basing allocations on average enrollment for the past couple of years.

Mackey said some of the missing students may have enrolled in private schools.

Others have returned, but too late for the official enrollment count, which ends each year 20 days after Labor Day.

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

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“The instructional problem will exist,” he said, but he hopes the potential money problem will be averted.

Getting students caught up after school closings and virtual classes “will be an instructional problem next year and the year after,” he said, echoing concerns voiced nationwide during the pandemic.

Mackey said he plans to ask the Legislature for extra money for tutoring and summer school. The department received summer school funding for 2021, but many districts will need to offer summer school for the next two to three years.

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

Final enrollment figures for each system are expected next month.

Public schools lost about 4,700 students in 2018, but Mackey said this drop is more significant.

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

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