Ashley Pearce’s daughter was set to start kindergarten last year in Maryland’s Montgomery County school system. But when it became clear that the year would begin online, Pearce found a nearby Catholic school offering in-person instruction and made the switch.
Now Pearce is grappling with a big question: Should her child return to the local public school? She’s hesitant to uproot her daughter after she’s made friends, and Pearce worries that the district might go fully virtual again if there’s an uptick in coronavirus cases.
“It’s going to be fine if we stay where we are, and that stability for my family is probably the way we’re going to go.”
As many parents across the U.S. weigh the same concerns, school districts that lost enrollment during the pandemic are looking anxiously to the fall to see how many families stick with the education choices they made over the last year. In hopes of attracting students, many districts have launched new efforts to connect with families with young children, including blanketing communities with yard signs and enlisting bus drivers to call parents.
There are early signs that enrollment may not fully rebound, and the stakes are high. If enrollment does not recover,