BY ELENA VALDEZ
Although classrooms still look overcrowded and car lines run all the way into the street, this may not be the case for long. As of the 2019-2020 school year, there has been a significant drop in South Florida’s public school enrollment, and the numbers continue to decrease with Broward County down by almost 2,000 students, according to the Miami Herald.
Two thousand students may not seem like much in comparison to the total 222,700 students enrolled in Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), but it is like losing the population of an entire Broward County high school such as CCHS.
The reasons for withdrawing from this traditional form of schooling vary, the most popular being concerns regarding both safety and quality of education.
Charter schools, or free alternatives to public schools, have skyrocketed in popularity with over 88 open for enrollment in Broward County alone. These schools are not bound by the many rules and regulations that public schools must abide by. Each charter school is independently operated by non-profit or for-profit organizations, which allows more freedom for each school to control the curriculum and create their own guidelines.
“I’ve always had anxiety about being outside of my room but after the Parkland shooting, it got even worse.”
Another alternative many students find themselves pursuing is virtual school. Switching to an entirely online education gives students the chance to curate their own schedule and manage their time how they want to.
Full-time classes are offered to students through Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and Broward County’s own subdivision of virtual schooling, Broward Virtual School (BVS). Standard high school diplomas are offered through both.
“I get to do work on my own time,” Broward Virtual School student said. “I don’t have to worry about being shot up either. I’ve always had anxiety about being outside of my room but after the Parkland shooting, it got even worse. It [BVS] is like my security blanket.”
Aside from some Broward County public schools receiving ratings as low as C’s, D’s or F’s, the overall safety of students is as large of a concern as the quality of education.
“They [students] feel unsafe in the BCPS system. It’s a risk some students aren’t willing to take.”
Security has become of the utmost importance in Broward County, following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018 and subsequently the passing of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, which increases security and preventative measures. Still, many parents and students alike fear the dangers associated with attending a public school.
“In terms of students being affected by Stoneman Douglas, I believe a few students have transferred out of public school,” senior Eryn Cameron said. “After a tragedy like Parkland, it’s a safety issue. They [students] feel unsafe in the BCPS system. It’s a risk some students aren’t willing to take.”
Safety has sometimes been put before education, and in a school setting, it has left people questioning whether this is the best option for their children. It is not only the fear of mass murder that puts safety into question. Bullying, vaping and other issues that students may be subjected to all turn them further away from the traditional public school system.
Charter schools and virtual schools may offer the one-on-one attention public schools fail to provide, making them viable options for many parents concerned with their children’s education and safety.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, public school enrollment is expected to continue to decrease as more students make the switch to education alternatives.
Photo by The Lariat Photography