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‘Right Now, All Students are Mobile’: New Pandemic Data Confirms a ‘Massive Event’ Disrupting School Enrollment

The Greenville County Schools in South Carolina was expecting enrollment to increase by about 1,000 students this fall, continuing a recent pattern driven by affordable home prices and accolades for “livability.” But instead of hitting the estimate of 78,000 students, officials are predicting a precipitous drop to about 74,000.

The movement of students in and out of schools — “mobility,” as educators call it — is commonplace. But the school and business closures sparked by the pandemic, and the economy’s subsequent nosedive, are creating a level of disruption some are calling historic.

Past research on the Great Recession showed the economic downturn sparked an increase in student mobility. But the current shift is affecting families across the economic spectrum, from poor students facing evictions and homelessness to wealthier families relocating to exurban “Zoom towns.” In between, many families are opting to send their children to charter schools and so-called learning pods. Others, particularly those with younger children, are engaging in a kind of makeshift homeschooling until their regular schools fully reopen.

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