UTAH – COVID-19 left families worrying about sending their students back to school in an in-person setting, and uncertain how school districts would handle re-opening procedures. As a result, the coronavirus pandemic has caused enrollment in Utah’s public schools to decline significantly for the first time in 20 years.

Overall, the state counted 665,790 students enrolled for the 2020-2021 school season so far this fall. A decline of more than 2,000 students over 2019, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. But, if one was to factor in early projections of an increase of 7,000 students, the deficit turns out to be closer to 9,000 students.

The biggest factor contributing to the decline was parents pulling their kids out of school districts in order to home school. In Utah, about 800 to 900 kids transition from classrooms in over to homeschooling annually, but this year the state found students leaving at a rate closer to three times higher than normal.

Since enrollment numbers dictate how much money school districts receive each year, fewer students means less funding, with the possibly of losses in the millions of dollars.

If calculated for the 9,000 student deficit, schools could lose as much as $31 million.

The state’s school system did see some new students the fall – primarily from out of state.

Another official headcount is expected Oct. 1, which will be used to calculate school funding models for the next scholastic year.