Public School Enrollment Has Declined Sharply; Some UWS Schools Are Down by Nearly 30%

By Carol Tannenhauser

New York City public school enrollment dropped significantly in the 2020-2021 school year, and, if kindergarten applications for the upcoming school year are any indication, it’s headed further south.

“New York City’s traditional public schools lost more students this year than the previous 14 years combined,” Chalkbeat reported in January 2021. “The number of public school students has fallen sharply across New York City, declining 4%, or roughly 43,000.”

In April 2021, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) released figures indicating that kindergarten enrollment in New York City had dropped even lower than the average, by 9%. Perhaps even more telling, Chalkbeat reported that “just under 55,500 families applied to kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year, down from almost 63,000 the year prior.” (12%)

On the Upper West Side, from elementary to high schools, nearly twice as many lost students, some nearly 30%. Below is the data on UWS schools. It was recorded in the fall of 2020, and reported by Chalkbeat in January 2021.

School                      Grade Level      2021 Enrollment    Student Change   Percent 

The Maxine Green      High School       200                          -84                       -29.58%
High School

MS 250 West Side      Jr. High, MS       110                           -43                       -28.10%
Collaborative MS

PS 87 William               Elementary       704                          -168                      -19.27%

PS 199 Jessie
Isador Straus                Elementary       621                          -140                      -18.40%

PS 76 A. Philip              K-8                    304                          -66                       -17.84%

PS 9 Sarah Anderson   Elementary      518                           -105                      -16.85%

Innovation Diploma       High School     143                           -27                       -15.88%

PS 333 Manhattan        K-8                    579                         -108                      -15.72%
School for Children

Edward A. Reynolds     High School      266                         -48                        -15.29%
WS High School

PS 180 Hugo                 K-8                    430                         -76                        -15.02%

PS 84 Lillian                  Elementary       618                          -73                        -10.56%

PS 163 Alfred E.            Elementary       488                         -57                        -10.46%

School for Media           High School     376                          -37                        -8.96%

PS 75 Emily Dickinson   Elementary      474                         -46                        – 8.85%

PS 149 Sojourner            K-8                   199                        -18                        – 8.29%

PS 165 Robert E.             K-8                   403                        -35                        -7.99%

PS 166 Richard                Elementary      607                        -52                        – 7.89%

LaGuardia High                High School     2725                    -232                       – 7.85%
School/Music & Art

PS 452                              Elementary      379                        -29                         – 7.11%

MS 258                             Jr High/MS       229                       -16                          – 6.53%

Locke School                    Elementary      324                       -21                          – 6.09%
Arts & Engineering

Mott Hall II                         Jr High/MS      395                       -22                         – 5.28%

MS 245 Computer            Jr High/MS      388                       -16                         – 3.96%

High School for                  High School   405                       -12                         – 2.88%
Law, Advocacy

Riverside School for          K-8                  519                        -12                         – 2.26%

Special Music School.       K-12                299                        -6                          – 1.97%

Manhattan Hunter              High School     452                      -6                          – 1.31%
Science HS

Anderson School                K-8                    517                     -5                          – 0.96%

MS 247 Dual-                     Jr High/MS        230                    -2                          – 0.86%
Language MS

Bloomingdale School         Elementary       391                     -3                         – 0.76%

HS Arts & Tech                   High School      460                    -3                         – 0.63%

School for Green                High School      299                      1                            0.34%

JHS 54 Booker T.               Jr. High/MS        828                     3                           0.36%

Frederick Douglass            Secondary         327                     3                           0.93%
Academy II

West Prep Academy           Jr. High/MS       185                     3                           1.65%

Frank McCourt HS.             High School      410                     7                           1.74%

Beacon High School           High School       1511                   40                        2.72%

MS 243 Center School       Jr. High/MS        255                     8                          3.24%

PS 242 Magnet Academy   Elementary        147                      7                          5.00%

STEM Institute                     Elementary         100                     6                          6.38%

Global Learning                   High School        465                    44                       10.45%

Wadeleigh Secondary         Secondary          359                    42                       13.25%

West End Secondary           Secondary          606                    76                       14.34%

Lafayette Academy              Jr. High/MS         178                    40                       28.99%

We asked Kim Watkins, the former long-time president of Community Education Council (CEC) 3 — the equivalent of a school board, representing UWS schools — why she thinks the NYC public school system is losing so many students?

“Number one, families with remote working parents are choosing other localities in which to raise their children, especially really young children,” Watkins answered in an email to WSR. “Early elementary grades were the most affected in 2020-2021, with each grade losing more than 10% of its students.

“Number two, families are choosing educational institutions (charter, religious, private) that have made sound, scientifically-based decisions in a timely manner,” she continued. “DOE decision-makers seem to want to do what’s right, but the optics and the politics have left parents and educators frustrated by shortcut safety measures and terrible communications… For families with children under 12, it seems inevitable that closures will significantly impact a third year of school, and they see smaller, nimble operators making better choices for children.”

In August, the DOE maintained that “unprecedented COVID-19 upheaval accounts for the bulk of departures from the system, and that attrition rates accelerated during the pandemic,” reported the New York Post. “‘Hundreds of thousands of families choose a New York City public school to send their child to get a world-class, high-quality education,’ said DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon. ‘We set the gold-standard in reopening and keeping kids safe during the pandemic and can’t wait to welcome everyone back to buildings this fall.’”

Mayor de Blasio has also made clear that, though schools are funded on a “per pupil” basis, they will not see their budgets cut as a result of the decline in enrollment. “De Blasio and (School Chancellor) Porter said this is possible partly because of additional money from the federal stimulus package,” according to the Daily News.

If your school has been affected, let us know in the comments, or email westsiderag at gmail. We’re hoping to follow up with more details. One question: do some chronically overcrowded schools now have smaller class sizes?

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 29 comments | permalink
    1. UWSer says:

      Very simple really, who would want to put their kids through a school system that is now publicly committed to discouraging excellence? The Adams tenure has one opportunity to readdress commitment to standardized testing and keeping specialized schools available only to the highest performers on an objective basis, or else I’m afraid an entire generation of kids with high academic aspirations will be lost to other options.

      The covid stuff is temporary (regardless of how bungled its been), but if NYC public schools can’t give real options to kids who want to strive for excellence in the name of “equity”, then the system will enter a sustained period of decline that will be hard to reverse.

      • Topcat says:

        Completely agree with you!!

      • José Cañusi says:

        This is fundamentally about health and safety, not ‘excellence’ or ‘equity’ .

      • good humor says:


      • Carlos says:

        Very well put. We have had a race to the bottom rather than to the top. Reward excellence while working like mad to improve things that aren’t working, rather than bringing down the best. It is particularly sad that bleeding heart, woke UWSers don’t get this. They are happy to destroy the system as long as their own child is not impacted. If you want to improve diversity, register your child for a 99% minority school in the South Bronx. Do I hear any takers? Crickets.

        Adams was far from a perfect candidate but I think he got the joke better than most of the others.

      • D3 Teacher says:

        If the city increases its commitment to students that “strive for excellence,” it must do the same for our city’s most underserved communities. We cannot be okay with building up some children and writing off hundreds of thousands of others. The pandemic showed me, once again, just how badly *all* kids need *all* adults to fight for them. Every child can succeed, no exceptions. But resource hoarding does not lead to good outcomes.

        • Beth says:

          Please stop with this “resource hoarding” false narrative. It is not true. The G&T program contains less than 2% of the NYC public school population. The idea that this tiny program is taking away resources from the larger school population is absurd. G&T students are not being “built up”. They are regularly maligned by DOE employees and parents and self-proclaimed activists. Just. Stop. Already.

          • PS163 G&T Parent says:

            It is interesting – the NYTimes once did a profile on the G&T class at PS163. And as a parent of a student in the PS163 G&T program, I can say it is spot on. Just in terms of field trips alone – the G&T classes, with hefty parental involvement, and a collection of money from families every September, went on regular field trips, sometimes even once a week. The other classes went on but a fraction of the number.

            • Beth says:

              I am/was not a parent at PS 163, but my understanding from parents there was that the money raised by the PTA, which was money raised primarily by the G&T parents, was shared among all students.

              There are many issues with the “resource hoarding” false narrative. G&T haters claim that G&T students get more resources without naming those resources and sources of funding and quantifying the money spent. G&T haters claim that funding for G&T takes away funding from other students without providing any evidence of their claim and despite the fact that G&T schools/schools with G&T programs receive a lower per pupil allotment than other schools. So much of this resource hoarding false narrative is perception, not reality. So much of G&T hating is emotional, not factual. That said, if the DOE provided adequate resources to all schools, there wouldn’t be as much need for PTA fundraising. PTA fundraising is a back door tax on middle class families. It’s not a “privilege”.

            • UUWSider says:

              First and foremost: no one forced you to send your child in the G&T program at 163 if you felt that the system was unfair. You sound like one of the CEC parents and elected officials (BdB included) who sent their children to selective programs and then criticize them or attempt to dismantle them after taking full advantage.

              As a former parent at 163 with insight in the PTA’s finances, I can tell you that the PTA money benefited every class in the school (G&T, Dual Language and Gen Ed), paying for chess, dance programs and enrichment for all the classes – yet the money was overwhelmingly coming from G&T parents. With the unilateral decision to eliminate the program in the name of equity, the principal is cutting resources for all the students as parents like us won’t be sending their children in a school that does not offer an educational program adapted to their children’s learning abilities.

      • Susan says:

        Yes, completely agree. So sad to see what is unfolding. The true victims are the children.

    2. Crankypants says:

      “No child left behind,” eh?
      Covid aside, The DeBlasio administration’s handling of schools is a trainwreck and any parent who could come up with an option other than the NYC Public School system will do so unless/until there is a dramatic improvement (hopefully under the next Mayor; one can dream).

    3. Leon says:

      With a few exceptions, the outgoing CEC was obsessively focused on “equity” rather than “quality.” Rather than trying to improve the “weaker” schools (as measured by test scores), their goal seemed to be to bring down the stronger schools. Meanwhile, most of the families at the weaker schools were perfectly happy where they were.

      There are now many empty seats at the stronger schools that historically filled with in-zone students. Parents at the weaker schools who truly care about their child’s education should be trying to fill these seats. You can lead a horse to water…

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Seriously, Leon? Seriously?

        WSR: this is thinly veiled classism and racism, actually not too thinly veiled at all. He’s simply trashing working class and non white parents. This is just dripping with elitism.

        Leon was allowed to post it. Am I allowed to identify it for what it is?

        • Leon says:

          Please stop with the conspiracy theories. What I am saying is the opposite. This is a golden opportunity for kids who have historically been shut out of the “better” schools to get a seat in one. How is that elitism? Out-of-zone families of all backgrounds got into my child’s “elite” zoned elementary school simply by speaking up, and I am happy to have them in our community.

          However, it is also my theory that many parents who we invest so many resources trying to “help” are actually happy where they are. Perhaps I will be proven wrong.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            Leon, you uniformly tarred parents in “weaker schools” as not “truly caring about their children’s education” unless they carry out some plan of action that meets a criteria set by you.

            Of course these parents are mostly non-white, and poor or working class.

            This is damaging propaganda in so many ways. It confirms forms of bias prevalent among upper income people and flies in the face of what educators know to be true. If you think the majority of working class and non white parents in these schools don’t “care about their children’s education”, you have been deprived of contact with these parents, and I feel badly for you.

            Btw, equity, diversity, and quality are all linked. School integration IS a quality issue and benefits all students.

    4. chuck d says:

      This could be a good thing. If the high earning parents have decided to educate their children outside NYC while they WFH, this will make classrooms smaller and hopefully better funded per pupil. And now the system can focus on teaching all the students, instead of syphoning off resources to the affluent system gamers.

      • B.B. says:

        You forget fact that when those “high earning” parents pull their kids out of public schools, their goes also their money and other contributions.

        Why do you think progressive, liberal, socialist democrats are so intent on busting suburbs and other areas with great schools.

        Those schools didn’t just become “great” out of the blue. But largely due to the wealth and other resources parents bring to the table.

      • UWS Dad says:

        Except that smaller classrooms don’t mean more funding per pupil.

        In NYC, Fair Student Funding is the main source of funding for most public schools.

        Fair Student Funding (“FSF”) is the main source of money for most schools. FSF is based on the number of students enrolled at a specific school and the needs of those students. The base FSF formula assigns a dollar amount for each student that a school receives and then allows additional dollars for that same student if they meet certain criteria (i.e. english language learner, IEP, homeless, etc.). The base amount and the additional dollar amounts are the same for every student at every school across the city.

        With input from the School Leadership Team, principals decide how to spend the FSFs they received are to be spent at each school.

        So, the idea that every school receives the same amount of money and therefore, with smaller classes there will be more money per student is simply not accurate.

      • Gilligan says:

        Better funded per pupil? First off, that’s not how it works. Look it up. Second, how much more money would make the schools better? New York spends $28K per student (much of which goes to pay for pensions and benefits for employees who haven’t worked there for years). And we should spend more money? Insane.

    5. John says:

      This is good news, we can lay off 30% of the staff and save the city a bundle.

    6. Sarah says:

      The DOE omitted the number of homeschooled children.

      Countrywide the number of homeschooled children has risen from 2.5 million to 5 million in the last year.

      NYC families needed to file a Letter of Intent by 1 July 2021 or within 14 days of starting their new homeschool program.

    7. LivableCity says:

      We all have crossed fingers for the Pre-K to 8th classrooms and their unvaccinated students. I am just wondering, in this weird year, Is there any upside, per the school administrators, in some of the historically “high scoring” or well regarded schools that in past years have had huge wait lists, or have had to convert art rooms or science labs to classrooms just to seat qualified kids? Will crowded classrooms see reduced stress? Will art science music or gym programs have a little more space to operate? Can more students be admitted from underserved or stressed schools in a way that makes schools more diverse or fairer in opportunities offered?

    8. Jane Doe says:

      My son went to the terrible PS 333 The Manhattan School for Children. It was our last choice and he was bullied for years. The principal is a terrible, mean, spiteful human being and should have been fired years ago. No No surprise that anyone who could get their children out did so.

      • Uwsider says:

        Our kids both recently went through PS33d. Both received amazing educations and had a wonderful social experience. We do however have a particularly whiney parent body who are all upset that they don’t get the bells and whistles of Trinity without the tuition bill.

    9. Marky says:

      So here we have it, the slow erosion of a community.

      These statistics tell the story of people who moved to the west side transitionally. Their first transaction was to displace long-term neighbors who has provided stability and continuity to our neighborhood; you know committed neighbors.

      The second transaction was segregating the schools, in the misguided idea that separating the races would give their child a leg up. The financial benefit from the segregation came in the form of the steadily increasing value of their coop (another investment transaction), because subsequent transacters also saw the leg up and the value steadily increasing.

      Now the “market” has turned. The hot money is leaving, with its profits. Off to other segregated schools, or even better, segregated gated developments.

      But where does that leave the Upper West Side, our neighborhood with its one-time community?

      Those neighbors, who had real roots and connections, can’t return.

    10. B.B. says:

      On his way out the door BdeB has one more attack on G&T programs planned.

    11. Jen says:

      If the schools are not filled, how come my child woth good grades was refused the entry to several ones from the list by DOE? They claimed that “there are no seats”. What they meant “there are seats but not for you”. We live in the districts. There are several schools we specifically asked for and followed up. “No seats” was the answer.

    12. Jen says:

      And why online schools are banned in NY? Everywhere else they are allowed. Why not un-ban them for a year or two during pandemic? Not the ideal solution but better than what we have now. Just an option to homeschooling for the parents for whom it is difficult to homeschool using textbooks only.