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Maryland private schools see a spike in students as parents leave public schools behind

Photo of Baltimore City Public Schools' classroom (WBFF)
Photo of Baltimore City Public Schools' classroom (WBFF)
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It's a shift that's sweeping Maryland school systems.

"St. Casimir has an 11% increase in enrollment, St. Mark has an 8%," said Dr. Donna Hargens, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "Twenty-one of our 34 elementary schools experienced increases."

After decades of decline, post-pandemic Baltimore Catholic schools are suddenly seeing an 8% spike in overall student enrollment.

"So that is a big accomplishment," said Hargens.

In fact, private schools across the state are reportedly booming. From the 2020 to 2021 school year, state data shows that non-public schools saw an increase of about 7,300 students.

Meanwhile, public schools saw a sharp decline, losing more than 25,000 students.

"We didn't miss a day of instruction, we pivoted to virtual, and then we were open for the next two years," said Hargens.

Many experts and educators are now pointing to COVID-19-related shutdowns and mandates as the main factor pushing parents to pull their kids out of public schools and place them into other alternatives.

"A lot of parents joined open the schools movements and pushed back at school board meetings and with their elected officials, but they weren't hearing it so the schools stayed closed for too long and parents decided to go elsewhere," said Sean Kennedy with the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

Kennedy adds that in Baltimore City specifically, with graduation rates 18% lower than the state average and some schools still without basic necessities such as air conditioning, he thinks the pandemic may only be part of the story.

"When scandals break about grade changing or poor performance or disciplinary issues, parents know that they were failed and they're saying no more," he said.

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This is also a trend taking shape across the country. So, it's not just Maryland and it's not just Private schools. Homeschooling enrollment is seeing a nationwide uptick as well.

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