Attendance increased by 8 percent over last year at Milwaukee area Jewish schools, reflecting a partial rebound from earlier in the pandemic.
“This year’s census shows growth, despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tzipi Altman-Shafer, Jewish education community planner. “Numbers have increased from last year, but I expect that the numbers this year are still atypical and that numbers will go up again next year.”
The census was conducted by the Coalition for Jewish Learning, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s education department that Altman-Shafer leads. The census is based on responses from local schools.
The number of children enrolled in Milwaukee Area Jewish schools increased from 1,377 to 1,502. This is still lower than 2019, when there were 1,678 students.
Analysis of these figures is limited because we do not know the total number of school age Jewish children, Altman-Shafer said. Also, the numbers could change as additional families choose to return to school during the academic year.
“The increase in attendance, but failure to return to pre-pandemic numbers, could be attributed to several factors, but this year we believe most of the change is due families slowly returning during the pandemic,” Altman-Shafer said.
Highlights from the census include:
There was a 43% increase overall at the six Jewish preschools, from 279 last year to 400 this year. The big jump is because fears of COVID-19 previously depressed enrollment, Altman-Shafer said. Also, parents were more often working from home, or unemployed, so they didn’t need daycare.
In 2019 there were 492 students.
Day school population
The six Jewish day schools saw almost no change in enrollment, increasing from 692 last year to 695 this year. Just like last year, there is considerable variance on a school-by-school basis, but overall, the schools grew by a few students, Altman-Shafer said.
This is the highest day school enrollment since 2007-2008. Of the day school children, 376 received voucher funding from the State of Wisconsin. There are a total of 436 families with children at day schools this year, up from 417 families last year.
Some parents moved their children to day schools during the pandemic, seeking an alternative to public schools that were in some instances more likely to remain physically closed.
“Most of the families who moved their children to day schools during the pandemic, kept them there this year. This is a success for our schools,” Altman-Shafer said.
Religious school enrollment
There are 8 religious schools affiliated with Milwaukee area synagogues. There was a 4% increase in religious school enrollment, from 370 to 388.
“Many families have still not returned to religious school after the pandemic. It remains to be seen how many of those families will return in the coming years,” Altman-Shafer said.
“Milwaukee can be proud of our education and engagement programs,” she said. “There are hundreds of teens involved in youth groups and young families engaged through PJ library, for example.”