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CMS enrollment stays flat this year, while Union and Cabarrus county schools see a rebound

Nancy Pierce
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had been counting on getting back almost 3,800 students this year after last year's pandemic slump. But early figures show there's little change in enrollment over last September.

CMS had projected having almost 144,000 students this year, compared with about 140,000 in September 2020. But CMS reported Friday that the 20th-day tally is 140,406, an increase of about 0.2%.

Cabarrus County schools reports a 20th-day count of 33,582 – up 1,151, or 3.5%, over last September. Union County Public Schools gained almost 700 students, or 2%. Its K-12 enrollment now stands at 40,626.

The tallies from the three districts give a preview of a statewide report expected next week.

Last year, with many schools opening in remote instruction, enrollment plunged in school districts across North Carolina. CMS was down 5% last year, matching the state average for school districts. Many families kept their kindergarteners home, with a total drop of 15% statewide in that grade.

A similar pattern played out nationwide in 2020.

Enrollment in North Carolina charter and home schools rose last year.

Baby bust was in progress

Enrollment had been leveling off or dropping at most North Carolina school districts even before the pandemic, thanks to what some demographers have dubbed a national "baby bust."

CMS topped out with more than 147,000 students in 2017 and 2018.

North Carolina education officials have said they expect a rebound in school districts this year as schools reopen for in-person classes.

Lower enrollment can mean a district loses state-funded teaching jobs. CMS says it doesn’t expect to lose jobs, but some teachers may be reassigned based on school enrollment. District officials say they're still trying to figure out why enrollment fell so far below projections this year.

CMS has not yet posted individual school numbers or racial breakdowns for the current school year.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.