Montgomery and Prince George’s school enrollment lags pre-pandemic total

By Nicole Asbury

Maryland’s two largest school systems both have about 3 percent fewer students this fall than they did before the coronavirus pandemic, according to enrollment data made public this week.

Montgomery County Public Schools counted 160,770 students on Sept. 30. That was almost unchanged from last year’s total and about 4,500 fewer than the enrollment in fall 2019.Fast, informative and written just for locals. Get The 7 DMV newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning.

Prince George’s County Public Schools reported 131,390 students, spokeswoman Meghan Gebreselassie said Wednesday. That, too, was nearly the same as the fall 2022 head count, and it was about 4,600 students fewer than the 2019 enrollment.

The pandemic shuttered schools around the country in early 2020 and forced students to attend classes remotely, causing massive disruptions and enrollment drops. Statewide, Maryland schools lost more than 18,000 students in fall 2020.

This week’s data shows that enrollment in Maryland’s two most populous counties has not yet recovered.

The Maryland Department of Planning had projected in an August report that statewide enrollment would increase through 2024a trend fueled in part by recovery from the pandemic and immigration.

Elsewhere in the Washington region, some schools are already bouncing back. In October, preliminary counts totaled more than 98,000 students in D.C. traditional public and charter schools, which outpaced pre-pandemictotals.Share this articleNo subscription required to readShare

The numbers from Prince George’s and Montgomery aren’t final. The Maryland State Department of Education expects to release a full enrollment report in January.

D.C. releases ‘highest ever’ school enrollment figures

Before the pandemic, Maryland officials expected public schools would expand. A 2019 state planning report projected seven years of enrollment growth, with most gains from 2019 to 2022. At the time, state officials projected Montgomery schools would have about 163,900 students and Prince George’sabout 133,400 by the 2023-24 school year. Neither system has reached those numbers.

Montgomery school officials attribute the decline to “significant impacts from the pandemic,” spokesman Chris Cram said. Some families enrolled children in private schools. Some teach them at home. Others moved out of the county.

During a Montgomery school board session Tuesday, county schools Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight acknowledged the setback the school system experienced during the pandemic after several years of growth. She added that officials expect enrollment to “move and change as the school year goes along.”

“We are a very mobile county,” she said. “Our students don’t fit into this perfect space of coming in and enrolling in MCPS by Sept. 30.”

Seth Adams, associate superintendent of facilities management, said the system projects enrollment to reach 167,000 by 2029. But he said a decline in births will slow kindergarten enrollment over the next few years.

Maryland colleges are trying to shake tepid enrollment. Results are mixed.

Montgomeryschools reported about 56,700 students identified as Hispanic this fall, the largest ethnic group in the system. About 38,400 of the county’s students are non-Hispanic White, about 34,700 are African American, and about 22,000 are Asian American.

Prince George’sschools did not immediately provide demographic breakdowns.