WILTON — Enrollment data from October 2020, shows a decline of 125 students in Wilton public schools, according to a report presented to the Board of Education on Nov. 5. More than two-thirds of that decline can be attributed to students now being home schooled, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith said.

Total enrollment in the district stands at 3,738 students. This includes 44 Pre-K students, 24 outplaced students and seven students enrolled in the Community Steps program that serves disabled adults up to age 21.

The K-12 enrollment as of October is 3,663. That is 97 students below the projection consultant Ellen Essman compiled for the district at the end of 2019, before the pandemic hit.

At a December board meeting, Essman had predicted K-12 enrollment would decline by 54 students for the 2020-21 school year and an additional 83 students in 2021-22.

How many students will be attending school is a critical piece of information in determining the next year’s school budget, and Smith said another estimate would be sought before presenting his proposed budget to the board. According to the district website, he is scheduled to do that on Jan. 7.

At the Nov. 5 meeting, Smith said families of 80 students had elected for home schooling, a startling number. “In a typical year we get a handful,” he said.

“We also had a dramatic number opt for private school. When kids leave the eighth grade, sometimes they go to private school, but this is across the board,” he said, citing smaller classes and more opportunities for in-school learning as possible reasons.

Nine students have been enrolled in a 5’s program in preschool rather than move into kindergarten.

Another 10 or so families did not give a reason for withdrawing, according to a survey the district conducted.

Data in the report provided to the board showed a change in enrollment from June 2020 to October 2020:

Kindergarten: 214 - 230

First: 254 - 201

Second: 237 - 239

Third: 268 - 236

Fourth: 274 - 264

Fifth: 315 - 280

Sixth: 299 - 318

Seventh: 310 - 301

Eighth: 341 - 316

Ninth: 344 - 337

Tenth: 284 - 341

Eleventh: 344 - 281

Twelfth: 311 - 339

Although the district has not yet surveyed the families that have withdrawn on their future plans, Smith said there is “quite a bit of anecdotal data that they made their decisions in light of the pandemic …” Once through it, he believes many plan to re-enroll.

“We have to consider that for next year,” he said.

Decline statewide

Student enrollment appears to be declining across the state.

The state Department of Education announced on Nov. 4 that information from school districts indicates a drop of total student enrollment by three percent.

The greatest declines occurred in the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten grades which may be due to the fact that parents are choosing to delay the start of public schooling for their young children due to the pandemic, a press release from the education department said.

Across the state, public Pre-K enrollment declined by 20 percent, and kindergarten enrollment fell by nearly 12 percent, the press release said.

An increase in the number of parents opting to home school their children and fewer new students enrolling in Grades 1 through 12, were other possible factors cited.