- Leaders in charge of several large school districts across the country are pointing to historic enrollment declines as decisions to close schools near.
- A Monday proposal to Texas’ San Antonio Independent School District Board of Trustees recommended closing a total of 19 schools between 2024-25 and and 2025-26. The board is expected to vote on a final decision by Nov. 13.
- The district has dubbed the initiative as “rightsizing,” adding that the recommendations are needed because its enrollment and school-aged population have been on the decline for over two decades. For instance, San Antonio ISD reports its enrollment dropped from 53,069 to 45,255 students between 2016 and 2023.
Because San Antonio ISD resisted opportunities to close schools as enrollment declined in the past, the district said, schools are emptier and resources are “spread too thin,” leading to inequities for students districtwide.
Similar enrollment trends are causing other large, urban school districts to mull over school closures.
On Sept. 12, Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso recommended closing 11 of the system’s 45 schools. A decision is expected by the Rochester Board of Education on Oct. 19.
As birth rates have declined in the city, so too has the district’s kindergarten enrollment. Between 2012-13 and 2022-23, the number of kindergarten students fell from 2,609 to 1,445, according to the district.
“Our district has experienced a continuous decline in enrollment for more than a decade and must make the necessary adjustments to create better learning and extracurricular opportunities in modernized facilities with highly qualified staff and programming to meet the diverse interests of our students,” Peluso said in a statement.
In Utah’s Salt Lake City School District, leaders are weighing a decision to close seven elementary schools. A study analyzing possible closures comes as the district’s elementary school enrollment has dropped almost 30% within the last eight years. Between 2014 and 2022, the number of younger students declined from 12,431 to 9,602, according to Salt Lake City schools.
Like San Antonio ISD, Salt Lake City schools did not close buildings for a long period of time despite ongoing enrollment declines.
Education and finance experts have long forecasted this impending pattern of school closures and consolidations as declining nationwide public school enrollment trends continue to point to a smaller pool of future students. Overall, researchers point to COVID-19 shifting enrollment patterns and declining birth rates as some reasons for the drops.
An analysis of K-12 enrollment data in 21 states from the Associated Press and Stanford University dug into the impact COVID-19 had on the number of students in public schools and found a dip in enrollment of 710,513 students between 2019-20 and 2021-22.
Overall, it’s recommended that district leaders get ahead of the curve when preparing for a school closure by not avoiding or delaying the issue, pacing their spending, and proactively communicating with teachers and families.