DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addressed parents on Tuesday, encouraging families to register students in online or in-person schools as the state experiences a decline in enrollment.
Polis said the decline is based on anecdotal evidence, but it is widespread across the state, with the greatest decrease among preschool to third grade students. Other school districts across the U.S. have reported similar trends.
According to Colorado’s Department of Education, the state saw a continued increase of its student population over the last 30 years, with the last decrease recorded in the 1988-89 school year.
At a news conference Tuesday, Polis and other officials warned about the “major deficit” that children who return to school after taking time off may face.
Dr. Chris Rogers, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said school is critical to the healthy development of children and adolescents.
“Research is clear that kids to best when they know what do expect from day-to-day life,” Roger said. “And one of the things that we can do to promote a sense of normalcy for our children during this pandemic is to provide this clear schedule, particularly when learning remotely.”
Rogers also emphasized the need for children to feel their part of a school or classroom community that is important to developing a sense of identity. “Without being involved in school, kids are left to feel further alone when this connection to their community can literally save them,” he said.
Thursday is Colorado’s school count day. That day will largely determine the state finances awarded to school districts that rely greatly on the number of students counted in each district.
“This is a message that doesn’t expire on Thursday, and if families are not enrolled this week, we want them enrolled next week, next month, as soon as they can for the benefit of their kids,” Polis said.
According to Rico Munn, superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, thousands of preschoolers and kindergartners are not enrolled. Munn warned that the loss of school for younger children would be “an incredibly life-changing impact.”
Officials also identified the importance for students to access services provided by schools, including lunches, counselors and health services.
“We cannot let our children’s education become a casualty of this pandemic,” said Katy Anthes, the state’s commissioner of education.