IW, Surry schools still below pre-pandemic enrollment

Published 7:39 pm Monday, October 16, 2023

Isle of Wight and Surry county schools still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic enrollment.

Isle of Wight remains 68 students, or 1.2%, down from the 5,506 enrolled four years ago, according to data Deputy Superintendent Susan Goetz and Colleen Loud, the school division’s director of assessment and accountability, shared at the School Board’s Oct. 12 meeting.

Two days earlier, at the Surry School Board’s Oct. 10 meeting, Superintendent Serbrenia Sims shared data showing a decrease of 49 students, or just under 6.6%, since the 2019-20 school year.

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Isle of Wight was among the first divisions in Hampton Roads to reopen its schools at the start of the 2020-21 school year following the state-mandated monthslong closure of Virginia’s schools during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The division saw its enrollment drop by 211 students, or 3.8%, by Sept. 30 of that year as many parents opted for homeschooling or virtual learning.

By the same date in 2021, Isle of Wight’s enrollment had rebounded to 5,487, or just 19 students shy of its pre-pandemic student body. But over the past two years, that number has again started to decline.

At the start of classes in 2022, Isle of Wight was down six students from 2021. As of Sept. 30 of this year, the division had lost another 43.

“Homeschool numbers have increased significantly since the pandemic,” said IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs.

According to data Briggs shared with The Smithfield Times, there were 231 homeschooled students in Isle of Wight County during the 2019-20 school year. That number nearly doubled to 404 in 2020-21. By the 2021-22 school year the number had fallen to 379, but rose again to 386 last school year. As of Sept. 30, the number of homeschoolers in Isle of Wight was reported at 471.

“We are also seeing more students using virtual options that are available to them,” Briggs said.

Surry, by comparison, dropped from 743 students to 679, or by 8.6%, from 2019-20 to 2020-21. By 2021-22, the division had lost another eight students. However, Surry has seen its numbers rebound over the two most recent school years.

Surry began the 2022-23 school year with 686 students, and this year reported 694, according to an unofficial count on Sept. 30.

Luther Porter Jackson Middle School, which reported 208 students in fifth through eighth grades this year, has nearly recovered its pre-pandemic 210-student population, while Surry Elementary and Surry County High remain 18 and 28 students below their pre-pandemic populations, respectively.

Carrsville Elementary on the southern tip of Isle of Wight County has since 2020 seen its kindergarten population drop by more than half, while Windsor Elementary has seen its kindergarten enrollment exceed that of 2019 every year except for 2020.

Hardy Elementary saw an increase of 48 kindergarteners, or 60%, this year over last, largely due to the School Board having rezoned 75 Carrollton Elementary students to Hardy to relieve overcrowding at the smaller of the two schools.