Two-and-a-half years after COVID upended the international landscape and forced many American students to try and learn from home, Arlington Public Schools is still playing catchup.
The school system’s official start-of-the-year count of 26,439 students in kindergarten through 12th grade is down 467 students, or 1.7 percent, from the total reported at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
That decline is the equivalent of an elementary school – to cite the closest example, Carlin Springs Elementary School, which had a reported student body of 473.
The Sept. 30 figures are deemed official and are reported to the Virginia Department of Education to be used for a variety of purposes, including state funding.
The county’s student population was down from 2019 at the elementary-school level (12,483 from 13,264) and middle-school level (5,810 from 6,119) but up at the high-school level (8,146 from 7,523).
The student enrollment is battling back from a more significant dropoff – upwards of 5 percent – in the aftermath of COVID, when some parents who could do so removed their students from the locked-down public-school system and found alternatives that included private and parochial schools and home-schooling.
Like most school systems across the nation, Arlington shut down in-person instruction in March 2020 as COVID roared in. Arlington School Board members in June 2020 became the first in the region to announce plans for to keep the lockdown in place for the 2020-21 school year, and the school system was one of the last in the region to fully reopen.
Consensus seems to have emerged nationally that excessive lockdowns did more harm than good in the big picture, as student-achievement rates plummeted and youth stuck behind computers faced significant mental-health challenges. Even the nation’s “face” of COVID response, Dr. Anthony Fauci, in recent days has admitted as much, although he denied he had anything to do with the decision-making involved.