By Guy Page
Five percent of Vermont schoolchildren – one in 20 – are being home schooled, according to statistics received from the Vermont Agency of Education.
A total of 79,836 students are enrolled in Vermont public schools during the 2020 school year, according to the Vermont Agency of Education dashboard. That’s down from 83,710 in the 2019 school year.
Public school enrollment has been dropping steadily due to demographics since at least 2004, when enrollment was 93,347. This year’s large increase is mostly attributed to concerns about the pandemic: health risks, reduction of in-person learning, and strict in-school regulations.
An estimated 4,000 students who are not enrolled in public schools are being homeschooled, a 100% increase over last year, Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said at a press conference earlier this week. Home school advocates say enrollment in 2018 was 2295, and in 2019 was about the same. Also, private school officials report strong enrollment.
The growing numbers of Vermont students in multi-household homeschooling groups got some good news earlier this week when a state official said the governor’s restrictions on multi-household gatherings do not apply to educational groups.
The public school system’s adaptation to the pandemic – hybrid learning where students spend some days at school, and others at home – leaves many students behind educationally, Sabina Brochu, a student member of the Vermont State Board of Education said at Gov. Scott’s press conference. “I know people who are struggling, who are failing with online learning. We need to go back into school….there’s a reason that school has been done in person five days a week. That’s how it works best.”
In a recent study shared at today’s press conference, three-quarters of Chittenden County students feel “protected” or “super protected” from Covid-19 at school. On the other hand, the solution isn’t just to ignore the pandemic, Brochu said: “I’m scared to go back to school after Thanksgiving break. I know there will be kids who travel on Thanksgiving – Christmas break.” She said she hopes people observe safety measures over the break. French said that schools are among the safest places for students and staff.