Nearly 8,000 fewer students are attending Maine public schools this fall, as the coronavirus pandemic has driven many families to homeschooling or private schools. But the decline hasn't been uniform across the state. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Most school districts in Maine lost students this year as enrollment has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Across the state, schools enrolled nearly 8,000 fewer students this fall than a year ago, as some parents kept younger students home and others turned to homeschooling and private schools. While Maine school enrollment has generally been on the decline for more than a decade, this year’s drop is the largest yet by far. But the enrollment drop wasn’t uniform across the state.

Forty-five of the almost 240 individual schools and districts tracked by the Maine Department of Education saw their enrollment increase this fall compared with a year ago, and 10 school districts saw no change.

The state’s handful of charter schools — which students choose to attend using public money — saw the largest percentage jump in enrollment, 4.6 percent more students than last fall. That worked out to 118 more students attending the state’s 10 charter schools. Maine’s charter schools include the state’s two virtual academies, which already were conducting classes entirely online before the pandemic and saw enrollment increases of about 10 percent this fall.

Public schools themselves saw the largest drop.

Only 22 public school districts across the state saw more students this year than last year, and most of those increases were small, of about 10 students or fewer. Even as most Bangor-area districts saw enrollment declines, Orono and Veazie saw their student bodies grow.

The data also showed a slight decline of 1.6 percent in the number of publicly funded students — whose towns pay their tuition — attending private schools.

Some private schools saw large increases in enrollment, such as the Carrabassett Valley Academy, a private middle and high school for student-athletes located at Sugarloaf.

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The private school has seen an increase both among out-of-state students and students from southern Maine who previously attended public schools in Yarmouth and Portland, according to Director of Enrollment Erin Whipple.

Many families moved to their second homes in Carrabassett Valley this year, she said, which resulted in an increase in the number of day students.

Use the table below to see if your local school district, private school or charter school has seen more or fewer publicly funded students this fall. The data, from the Maine Department of Education, are based on preliminary totals as of Oct. 1.

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