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Number of Mainers homeschooling remains higher than before the pandemic

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Recent enrollment numbers released by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) show that the number of students who are being homeschooled for the current 2021-2022 school year dropped approximately 33% from a year ago, but are still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

According to the DOE, there are just over 8,000 students in the state who are being homeschooled during the 2021-2022 school year. This is less than the over 12,000 students who were being homeschooled during the 2020-2021 school year, but more than the roughly 6,700 students who were being homeschooled during the 2019-2020 school year when the pandemic began.

The DOE also noted that data on students who received at-home instruction for the 2019-2020 school year has only been partially digitized. 

Over the past few years, the greatest change in enrollment numbers has occurred among younger students. During the 2019-2020 school year, there were 219 6-year-old students in the state who were being homeschooled. That number jumped to 1,001 during the 2020-2021 school year, an increase of 357%. The number of 6-year-olds who are being homeschooled this year fell to 676, a decrease of 32.4%.

Similarly, the number of 7-year olds receiving home instruction rose by approximately 284% between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. This year, that number fell by 34.8%. 

The number of older students experienced a far smaller swing in enrollment over the course of the last three school years.

The DOE reports 248 17-year-olds were homeschooled during the 2019-2020 school year. That number increased to 412 in 2020-2021, a 66% rise. This school year, 296 17-year-olds are being homeschooled, a decrease of 28.1% from the previous year.

Despite the different rates of increase in homeschooled students between the 2019-2020 school year and the 2020-2021 school year, homeschooling enrollment followed a similar trend for all students regardless of age. 

For all age categories, the number of students receiving home instruction rose between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. This school year, the number of students receiving home instruction has decreased from last year for all age categories. For all age categories except 18-year-olds, the number of students receiving home instruction remains higher this year than during the 2019-2020 school year.

The home enrollment data does not appear to show a correlation between geography and home enrollment numbers. Some of Maine’s biggest cities, such as Portland, Bangor and Augusta, have all experienced an increase in the number of homeschooled students over the past three school years. Since the 2019-2020 school year, the number of homeschooled students in Augusta’s public school system has grown by approximately 38%. Bangor’s homeschooled population has grown by just over 31% in the same time period. Portland’s homeschooled population has grown by nearly 46% in the past three years.

But despite having larger class sizes that might lead parents to worry about increased exposure to COVID-19 in the classroom, urban school districts have not experienced the greatest increase in the number of homeschooled students over the past three years.

The Orrington school system has experienced a roughly 118% increase in the number of homeschooled students in the district over the past three years. 

Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 32, which includes Ashland, has seen a 150% increase in the number of students receiving home instruction. For smaller school districts like MSAD 32, the high rate of increase in homeschooled students may be partially explained by the size of its student population.

MSAD 32 had two homeschooled students during the 2019-2020 school year. That number increased to five for the 2020-2021 school year. This year, MSAD 32 also has five homeschooled students. 

By contrast, during the 2019-2020 school year, Portland had 72 homeschooled students. That number rose to 174 for the 2020-2021 school year and declined to 105 this school year.

Because it has a larger student body, Portland’s rate of change for students receiving home instruction is smaller than MSAD 32’s despite more students in the city’s school district opting to switch to homeschooling over the last three academic years.

Schools in the state are required to report their enrollment numbers to the DOE by October 1 annually. Enrollment data for students who attend public schools has not yet been publicly released, but is expected to be available in early November.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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