Statewide enrollment numbers for K-12 public schools for the 2020-21 school year dropped nearly 3%, or 160,000 students, compared to the year before, according to Public Policy Institute of California in a report released Friday.

The figures were similar for Bay Area counties, which had enrollment drops of between 2% and 4%.

Before the pandemic the Department of Finance project a decline of about three-tenths of a percent this year. The much steeper than anticipated decline, which is most pronounced in the younger grades, may be due to parents keeping their kids out of school, enrolling them in a private school or home schooling them.

The number of Black and Native American kindergartners declined the most, by 20% and 23%, respectively. There also were 11% fewer Latino and 3% fewer Asian American and Pacific Islander kindergartners. The demographic pattern held across grades but with smaller declines, according to the report.

Enrollment dropped unevenly across the state with enrollment in the rural counties of Mono, Inyo and Sierra counties falling more than 8%. Bay Area counties had enrollment drops of between 2% and 4%, and Los Angeles and Orange counties had drops of 3%.

It’s unclear if the enrollment declines are permanent or whether parents will send kids back to school when classes are fully in-person, according to the report. Migration may also have caused declines as more lower- and middle-income families move out of state.

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