Enrollment in public schools falls |

About 162,000 students are enrolled in New Hampshire’s K-12 public schools this year, down about 1% from last year. This decline continues a nationwide trend of decline observed over two decades, in large part due to an aging population and low birth rates.

According to an annual census by the New Hampshire Department of Education, 161,755 students are now enrolled in the state’s traditional public schools. Another 5,526 attend the state’s charter public schools. The modest decline in total enrollment comes after a sharp drop the year before, when many families turned to private or homeschool options or kept their children out of preschool and kindergarten during the pandemic.

The boroughs with the most students continue to be Manchester, Nashua, Bedford, Londonderry and Concord. Of these, Bedford is the only district that has grown in recent years.

The changes in New Hampshire’s student population are having a significant impact on cities, taxpayers and the students themselves.

Unless districts close school buildings or significantly cut their budgets, lower enrollments will not result in immediate savings in expenses such as building maintenance, buses, and staff. But it results in less government aid per student. This puts local taxpayers under the obligation to cover a larger share of the rising costs.

Recent funding from federal COVID relief packages and measures passed by state legislatures have softened the impact of these increases and allowed districts to pay for additional resources without dramatic tax hikes. But it’s not clear how state or local officials will address these funding needs over the long term.

As the total number of students decreases, the demographics of New Hampshire’s student body are also changing. Data from the state Department of Education shows that the student population is becoming more ethnically diverse every year, particularly in the largest cities: Nashua, Manchester and Concord. In Manchester, for example, the number of students of color has more than doubled in the last two decades. As some districts become more multicultural and multilingual, they have attempted – with mixed success – to hire staff that reflect these changes.

Enrollment reports for each school are available on the Department of Education website.

These articles are shared by partners in the Granite State News Collaborative. Visit collaborativenh.org for more information.