Empty desks a constant reminder of kids who haven’t come back to Las Vegas schools

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The U.S. Department of Education says public school enrollment during the pandemic has dropped by more than 1.5 million nationwide.

Some households have switched to private schools or at-home learning. Others have vanished from the system.

At Tate Elementary School in Las Vegas, counselors are working the phones. They’re looking for children still missing from class … weeks after the school year began.

Kids like 7-year-old George Gomez.

The nervous second-grader has not been inside a classroom since kindergarten — after more than a year of remote learning.

His mom finally decided to enroll him after a doctor convinced her.

George’s mom said, “I kind of was like scared and concerned because none of us had a COVID shot at all. So we all got our shots.”

She says she feels safer now.

Tate principal Sarah Popek says, “We do have some students who are not back because their parents are concerned. This ZIP code, in particular, was hit very hard with COVID.”

Across town at Orr Middle School, empty desks are constant reminders of classmates who have vanished. The campus normally holds up to 1,200 students. This year, only 871 were expected.

“We had, basically 400 didn’t show up,” said Orr principal Anthony Nunez.

Nationwide, it’s estimated up to 3 million children stopped attending school or online classes after pandemic shutdowns last year.

And that’s a problem for schools. Funding is based on a headcount.

“If these students don’t show up I think that it may cause a reduction in staffing,” Nunez said.

George Gomez, right, on the playground at Tate Elementary School. (CBS News)

At Tate Elementary, George is now catching up with his classmates, and he says it feels good to be back.

Administrators, meanwhile, plan to go door-to-door to track down the remaining lost kids.

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