CHICOPEE — Chicopee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcus Ware presented the findings of his Entry Plan at the April 3 School Committee meeting.

One of the topics that Ware talked about was the enrollment rates in Chicopee schools.

He said, “Our district, like many, has seen a change in enrollment over the past several years. Speaking to the enrollment in Chicopee Public Schools, what you will notice is a gradual decline and this is not uncommon. This is a common trend you will see throughout the state.”

Based on the presentation, the total amount of students enrolled during the 2018-2019 school year was 7,392 but decreased to 6,807 students for 2023-2024. Ware talked about why he thinks enrollment is decreasing.

“Part of the reason why we are seeing this trend is multifaceted. One of these reasons is the category of School Choice. Another reason is the charter school expansions and openings in our state and local community. We also have another option of home schooling where we saw an uptick,” Ware said.

The School Committee recently approved offering 22 School Choice seats for grades 1-5, eight slots for Barry Elementary School, eight slots for Bowie Elementary School, five slots for Fairview Elementary School and four slots for Streiber Elementary School.

This will bring the total number of slots to 128.

There are currently 103 students enrolled in School Choice at Chicopee Public Schools as of March 1, which is a decrease of 27 students from prior school year.

Chicopee School Choice enrollment trends are declining with FY24, seeing 103 students joining Chicopee Schools but 244 students going to other districts.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic, Ware said he has noticed parents have realized that homeschooling is a viable option for their child who has not felt comfortable returning to the classroom.

Attendance is another topic that Ware wanted to discuss.

He added, “Attendance is a hot topic in the state in which we are noticing that since 2018 to now, with the pandemic in 2020-2021, we’ve seen a challenge in our students reporting to school or the subject of chronic absenteeism.”

The overall attendance of students in Chicopee was at 93.8% during the 2018-2019 school year, but that number dropped to 90.8% during the 2022-2023 school year.

The percentage of chronic absenteeism has also been on the rise in Chicopee schools.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student who misses 10% of the school year or misses at least 18 days of school.

The presentation showed the chronic absenteeism rate in 2018-2019 was 18.2% but spiked to 33.7% in the 2022-2023 school year.

The presentation also looked at the demographics of Chicopee schools by breaking it down into two graphs.

The first graph showed the amount of English language learners, low income/economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and students with high needs has all increased.

Ware talked more about these findings.

He said, “Those students are coming in our doors everyday so that’s something that is notable as well as the high needs category going up 13 percentage points. That about 900 students.”

The entry plan also looked at the performance amongst Chicopee students by taking at look at MCAS data.

Ware said, “Our students right now overall, 29% are either meeting or exceeding the expectation on the state test. If you look at all our students that represents a 13-point decrease and so once again, hundreds of students are not where we used to be. There’s a good opportunity to increase the academic performance of all of our students.”

The number of referrals has also increased over the last five school years and the entry plan looked at the social, emotional and mental health of its students.

Ware explained that he and his administrative team will be taking a deeper look at some of the topics in the entry plan to present more data at future School Committee meetings.

Ware added, “I would like to express a great deal of gratitude to my team, all essential office as well as the multiple stakeholders that I had the opportunity to visit over the past nine months in getting this plan to where it is. The plan is still ongoing, and this is like a snapshot of what we have done up until this point.”

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