Enrollment at Austin ISD, Eanes ISD and other school districts across Texas is down this year, a trend that officials are attributing to remote learning in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of students at Austin ISD is roughly 3,400 lower compared to this time last year, Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde reported to the board of trustees at a meeting on Monday.
This decline is most concentrated in pre-K enrollment, which is about 1,850 students shy from what it was after the first week of classes last year. The district's overall enrollment is around 80,000.
"Our surrounding school districts as well as school districts through the United States and in Texas are in fact experiencing some concerns with enrollment," Elizalde said at her first board meeting since being appointed last month.
Compared to this time last year, Eanes ISD's overall enrollment is down 211 students—for a total of 7,954—while its high school enrollment remains unchanged, according to Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnett.
"There are a variety of factors, but the pandemic, the economy and other schooling options seem to be most reasonable explanations for the moderate decline," he said in a statement to Austonia. The state of Texas guarantees public school funding based, in part, on student enrollment numbers.
Elizalde attributed the drop in enrollment at AISD to virtual learning, explaining that some families may not be engaged in remote instruction, and expressed hope that the numbers may shift when the district begins a phased return to in-person instruction on Oct. 5.
To this end, AISD will launch a campaign to try to increase enrollment to be more in line with district projections, which actually estimated enrollment would grow this year.
Some of the first students to return to their classrooms will be those in the pre-K and kindergarten grades.
"The rationale for that is that our youngest learners are the ones who benefit the most from in-person instruction," Elizalde said.
Other school districts are reporting similar trends.
As of the third day of class, Houston ISD saw its enrollment fall by more than 30,000 students—to 167,163—compared to the same time last year. Similarly, Dallas ISD reported a roughly 10% drop of 13,500 students and San Antonio ISD said its enrollment is about 2,400 shy of its enrollment last year, which was 6,400.
School districts are already contending with increased costs due to the pandemic and pressure to reopen from parents and the Texas Education Agency, which has hinged funding on a return to in-person learning.
Private schools across Texas are also seeing an average enrollment decline of 8%, with the most impact in the lower grades, according to the Texas Private Schools Association. However, the trend may not extend to Austin, where Executive Director Laura Colangelo said some private schools have reported "significant increased enrollment."
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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."