The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingers on the number of traditional public school students in North Carolina.

While average daily enrollment (ADM) in mainstream schools has increased since last year, it is still below its pre-COVID-19 level. On the other hand, charter school ADM is now nearly 20% higher than it was before the pandemic. But most of the state’s students are educated in mainstream public schools, with papers making up less than 10 percent of total ADM.

Last week the state Department of Education released its first look at how many students are in public schools in the state.

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In the table below, you can see the ADM numbers for traditional and charter school students in 2019 (pre-pandemic), 2020 (in the peak of the pandemic), 2021 (last year), and now. Traditional schools gained 1.1% from last year to this year but are still down 3.2% from before COVID-19. Charter schools gained 6.4% from last year and were up 19.2% from before the pandemic.

Chart created by Katie Dukes/EducationNC

Chart created by Katie Dukes/EducationNC

DPI defines ADM and its calculation like this:

The total number of school days within a given period—usually a school month or school year—that a student’s name is on a class’s current roster, whether or not they are present or absent, is the “number of Enrollment Days” for that student. The ADM for each school month is based on the sum of the number of enrollment days for all non-violating students in the individual LEA/Charter, divided by the number of days in the school month. The ADM final is the total enrollment days for all students during the school year divided by the number of days the school was in session ADM is a more accurate count of the number of students in school than enrollment.

For more information on what ADM is and how it affects school funding, watch Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott explain it in this video.


To analyze this year’s Month 1 ADM data, we compared it to Month 1 ADM data from the previous three school years. You can find all of DPI’s original data below “Average Daily Enrollment and Last Day Enrollment by School (ADM and MLD).” The data for this year are the numbers as of November 4, 2022 and are preliminary.

Districts sometimes see an increase in ADM in month 2. Month 2 data for this year is not available, so we only used month 1 data in our analysis.

We surveyed 115 public school districts in the state, which includes 100 county districts and 15 city districts.

ADM analysis

In last year’s analysis, we found that the largest single year-over-year decline was 9.13% and the largest increase was 12.47%.

Districts, overall, have smaller decreases this year. The single largest decline from 2021 to 2022 was 4.67%, in the Weldon City school system. The largest increase was 7.62%, for the Cherokee County school system.

Thirty districts dropped from 0.1% to 4.99% between 2021 and 2022. No districts dropped further. Three districts had no changes and 82 saw an increase.

The numbers are starkier when it comes to the changes between 2019 and 2022. The biggest drop was 22.22%, for Tyrrell County schools. However, Pender County schools increased their ADM by 10.94% in that time period. It had the biggest increase.

During that time, nine school districts had ADM drops of 10% or more. Thirty-five dropped from 5% to 9.99%. Fifty-five dropped from 0.1% to 4.99%. Only 16 districts experienced increases in WMD from 2019 to 2022.


Alexis Schauss, DPI’s chief financial officer, said the department doesn’t usually draw conclusions from Month 1 ADM data as it is usually lower than Month 2.

“We usually wait until ADM 2 month to evaluate LEAs (Local Education Agencies),” he said in an email. “That said, there were a lot of LEAs that were declining in ADM before COVID, so it should be taken into consideration.”

Lauren Fox, senior director of policy and research for the North Carolina Public School Forum, said in an email that the increase in enrollment over the past year supports local education leaders’ assertion that students are returning after COVID-19. She also said that the growth of charter schools is important to monitor for its impact on mainstream public schools.

“Charter school enrollment and the overall number of charter schools in the state have grown since the cap was removed in 2011, and it’s more important than ever to focus on how this growth impacts equity and opportunity for all students.” , she said. “For example: What is the impact of charter schools on traditional public school budgets and school segregation? To what extent do charter schools serve all students fairly and how do we ensure they are accountable to students and families?

Brian Jodice, executive vice president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said enrollment growth at charter, private and home schools has surged over the past decade, but that COVID-19 has helped bolster those numbers.

“I think the pandemic caused a further increase because those nontraditional options had the flexibility to physically open their doors faster than the traditional public school system, and there were many parents and families in our state who wanted their children physically return to school as soon as possible for a myriad of reasons,” he said. “If you couple the impacts of the pandemic on school enrollment with the growing movement in our state around the belief that all students should have access to the school of their choice regardless of income or zip code, then it should come as no surprise that we continue to see an increase in options such as charter and private school choice programs such as North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.”

Here is a spreadsheet of the data.

In the map below, you can hover over any district to see first-month ADM data for this year or the previous three. You can also see the percent change in Month 1’s ADM from 2021 to 2022 and 2019 to 2022. The dots represent the city’s school districts.

Dashboard 1

Dashboard 1

This article first appeared on EducationNC and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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