Hawaii public schools lost 4,627 students in the 2020-21 school year, according to an enrollment count released by the state Department of Education Friday, a steep drop compared to figures released at the same time last year.

Across DOE and public charter schools, total enrollment this year topped off at 174,704, a 2.6% decline from the same time last year. In the 2019-20 school year, the fall enrollment figure of 179,331 reflected only a 0.2% drop from the prior year.

Although public school enrollment across the state dropped as a net, charter schools, which are autonomously run by independent governing boards but are still taxpayer funded, saw a slight bump in enrollment this year, from 11,877 in 2019-20 to 12,213 this school year.

Farrington High School Class of 2020 graduation banners on the front of the school during COVID-19.
Farrington High is again among the state’s largest public schools this year, with an enrollment of 2,365. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Patterns largely remained the same when it comes to the state’s largest public schools based on enrollment: Campbell High, Waipahu High, Mililani High, Farrington High and Maui High have the largest numbers of students — ranging from 2,100 to over 3,000 — while the state’s largest charter schools by student count remain Hawaii Technology Academy, Kamaile Academy, Ka Waihona O Ka Naauao, Kihei Charter School and the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Enrollment at the state’s largest charter schools range from 711 students to 1,337 students.

The dip in public school enrollment could possibly be attributed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More Hawaii parents have opted to remove their children from DOE schools in favor of homeschooling out of safety concerns, although the department does not have official counts of withdrawals just yet.

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