MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Mesa Public Schools, the state's largest school district, said the pandemic is creating problems, some that parents aren't sure the district will be able to recover from.

These new numbers don't necessarily surprise people in the district, but they said they're still disappointing.

The issues are front and center: lower enrollment, lower grades and more absences.

"What do you do if you don't have the money there because you don't have the students anymore? I don't know. I mean, it's a concern," said parent Andrea Hall.

Hall has a daughter in fifth grade in the district and noticed right away a big change this year.

"My daughter started Aug. 4 with 36 students in her class, and by Christmas, they were down to 21. I believe she's at 24 now," Hall said.

At its school board meeting last week, absences were also discussed.

"More students are absent this year compared to prior years. That's for both our in-person and remote students," said Dr. Robert Carlisle, who was leading the presentation.

Fewer parents sending their kids to public, charter schools in AZ due to COVID-19

Another big worry is overall lower grades, specifically students learning remotely getting more Fs than students learning in-person.

"The kids can't support each other at a basketball game or can't go to a choir concert or no dances and things to look forward to, and I wonder if that's had a great impact as well on their grades and enrollments," said board member Lara Ellingson.

Bonny Hayward has experienced this all first hand. She teaches sixth and eighth-grade science in the district.

remote learning

Kids aren't as engaged when they're learning remotely.

"Being remote, you're not as engaged. You don't have your peers around you to help with that engagement as well. There's a lot of things that can sidetrack you at home," Hayward said. "I've had students who are watching TV at the same time, students who you can see in their reflection that they're playing video games off their glasses."

Both she and Hall hope things improve as the year goes on, but have continued to watch families leave the district.

"I am worried about how that will affect Mesa Public Schools going forward because I don't know how many people will return," Hall said.

Both of them said the reason many parents pulled their kids out of Mesa Public Schools was to have more full-time in-person learning.

A majority of Mesa Public Schools students are back to class in person now, which many hope will help these numbers improve.


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