Schools in Houston, Texas, are reporting a precipitous drop in enrollment, and it's going to cost them millions in funding if it continues.
According to a review of data by KHOU-TV reported to the Texas Education Agency, sixteen of Houston's 20 largest districts will have fewer students this year than previously enrolled.
That adds up to an incredible figure of 38,766 students missing from public school instruction.
And they're not quite sure where all of them went.
"I think that's what everyone is trying to figure out right now," said Duncan Klussmann, a professor and former superintendent.
"Some students can be homeschooled, so that could be a factor," he added. "There could be some students in private settings. And there's going to be a certain percent of students who just are not enrolling at all."
Houston Independent School Department Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan said that officials are trying to locate those students in order to make sure they have the proper school instruction.
"We're still trying to locate those students, provide them with the necessary resources so they can definitely re-enroll," Lathan said.
Since school funding is determined by per-pupil spending, the drop in enrollment is going to cost Houston schools tens of millions of dollars.
"If nothing changes from here on out, then in Alief ISD we'll see anywhere from a $25-$40 million revenue cut," says Alief Independent School Department Superintendent HD Chambers.
"The students are going to lose, staff members are going to lose, teachers are going to lose," he added.
Chambers believes part of the issue is that parents find it difficult to keep younger students in front of a screen for distance instruction.
"It's so difficult to have a four-year-old or a five-year-old or a six-year-old sit in front of a computer monitor and try to learn virtually," he explained. "So they become frustrated with that."
The Texas Education Agency has said it will fully fund schools for only the first semester without consideration to the number of students being instructed. It is unclear what will happen to funding after the first semester.
Here's the local news video about the stunning figure:
Houston-area school districts report enrollment drop of nearly 40,000 students www.youtube.com