SAN DIEGO — Public schools in San Diego County are seeing a drop in student enrollment.

New data released from the California Department of Education shows enrollment data from 2021-22 as it compares to the 2022-23 school year.

“It wasn’t really surprising. It is concerning,” said Christine Paik, the Chief Communications Officer for the Poway Unified School District.

CDE found for the 2021-22 school year, San Diego County Public Schools had 481,102 students enrolled. In 2022-23 school year, the county had 476,760 students, down 1% according to the CDE.

CDE numbers found San Diego County is consistent with an enrollment decline statewide, which showed the state had 1% or about 40,000 students fewer than last year.

CDE found for the 2021-22 school year, there were 5,892,240 students. Compared to the 2022-23 school year, there were 5,852,544 students enrolled statewide at public schools, according to CDE.

“Up to the pandemic, we were seeing a steady increase of about 1% a year,” Paik said. “After the pandemic, we saw a fallout.”

Poway Unified School District, the county’s largest district, had 35,192 students enrolled for the 2021-22 school year, according to the CDE.

For the 2022-23 year, the CDE found the district has 34,900 students enrolled. Educators suggest numerous reasons for the declines: COVID-19 restrictions at public schools and the rising costs that have forced people to move out of the state and the country.

“Enrollment directly equals funding from the state, and we are seeing those numbers go down, that’s concerning. That means fewer staff, fewer programs and we are not wanting to make those cuts to education,” Paik said.

To combat falling enrollment, public school districts are trying to attract more students. Oceanside Unified School District saw a 2% decline from last year. Oceanside Unified is highlighting several programs including its Career Technical Educational program, dual enrollment program with Mira Costa College and their two-way bilingual immersion program.

Oceanside Unified School District wrote in a statement:

“What we do to attract students is highlight the wonderful programs we have that set us apart from other districts via earned and social media campaigns. We have one of the strongest Career Technical Education programs in the area and have just added a Biotech Pathway. OUSD has some of the highest enrollment and course offerings at Mira Costa College as part of the Dual Enrollment Program. We lead many districts with our implementation of Community Schools. We have a total of six. Our Two Way Bilingual Immersion program has been a tremendous success with our first group of students taking and passing the AP Spanish exam as eighth graders. Eleven of those students started high school with a college credit on their transcript. OUSD also offers tremendous social and emotional support. We are one of only a few districts to have placed a permanent counselor in each of our elementary schools after the pandemic.”

Poway Unified said families want personalized options. The district offers a homeschool program, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese immersion program.

Paik said the district also offered a “hybrid program both virtual and in person.”

“Full five days a week in person which is our bread and butter,” Paik said. “Also have different options for independent study, you can enroll in Palomar College and high school at the same time by providing more learning options, we are allowing families to come to us and come to us to stay.”

The CDE said they have provided support to districts to outreach families who are chronically absent. The state also said they want to put special attention on boosting transitional kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment, while also offering options to keep high school students connected.