For decades, Virginia’s public school enrollment has grown steadily along with Virginia’s population, but the results from this year’s September student count show that in 2018, Virginia’s enrollment fell by a little over 2,000 students—the first decline in enrollment since 1984. While this year’s dip in student enrollment is relatively small compared to Virginia’s total public school enrollment (over one million students), the decline in enrollment is one of the first signs that Virginia’s aging population is beginning to impact the commonwealth.
Source: Virginia Department of Education Fall Count
Even though it has been decades since Virginia’s student enrollment last declined, this year’s lower enrollment was not entirely unexpected. The number of births in Virginia, and nationally, has continued to fall since the recession, and as children born after 2007 began enrolling in school, Virginia’s entering kindergarten class sizes also started to shrink. Still, the smaller student cohorts were not expected to cause Virginia’s total student enrollment to decrease until sometime during the 2020s. It appears that this early decline in enrollment is primarily due to the rise in the out-migration of families during the last few years in Northern Virginia.