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Closed schools

Question:
How many public schools in the United States have closed?

Response:

In 1929–30, there were approximately 248,000 public schools, compared with about 98,500 in 2017–18. However, the number of public schools has increased in recent decades: Between 1988–89 and 2006–07, there was an increase of approximately 15,600 schools, up to a total of 98,800. Since 2006–07, the number of public schools has remained relatively stable, varying by fewer than 500 schools from year to year.

While the total number of public schools in the country has remained relatively stable in recent years, new schools have opened and some schools have closed. In 2017–18, there were 1,310 school closures. The schools that closed had enrolled about 267,000 students in the prior school year (2016–17). Of the schools that closed, 889 were regular schools, 217 were special education schools, 13 were vocational schools, and 191 were alternative schools. Of these closed schools, 247 were classified as charter schools. The number of schools that closed in 2017–18 was higher than the number in 2015–16 (1,160) or 2016–17 (1,098); however, the number of annual school closures fluctuated during the 2000–01 to 2017–18 period, ranging from 1,098 to 2,168. School closures do not necessarily reflect the number of school buildings that have been closed, since a school may share a building with another school, or one school may have multiple buildings.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Chapter 2.

Number and enrollment of public elementary and secondary schools that have closed, by school level, type, and charter status: Selected years, 1995–96 through 2017–18
School level, type, and charter status 1995–96 2000–01 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Total, all schools 954 1,193 1,913 1,553 1,877 2,120 1,515 1,822 1,929 1,840 1,493 1,737 1,573 1,160 1,098 1,310
School type
Regular 686 908 1,190 1,171 1,348 1,450 1,059 1,321 1,486 1,340 1,075 1,179 1,118 893 738 889
Special education 110 84 271 88 160 195 99 235 72 87 83 90 66 32 66 217
Vocational 17 17 18 28 14 30 15 11 7 11 66 20 23 14 10 13
Alternative1 141 184 434 266 355 445 342 255 364 402 269 448 366 221 284 191
School level and type
Elementary2 497 601 901 770 846 844 769 936 1,073 1,020 776 864 789 645 589 789
Regular 449 563 847 725 771 804 713 893 1,010 959 726 778 729 597 524 612
Special education 28 20 25 13 53 20 22 13 18 18 18 33 25 13 22 133
Vocational 0 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3
Alternative1 20 16 29 31 21 20 33 30 45 43 32 52 35 35 43 41
Secondary3 199 302 302 342 308 394 368 346 436 451 421 502 453 294 330 355
Regular 114 173 177 192 171 233 186 212 237 238 204 231 249 175 137 191
Special education 12 19 4 11 24 19 21 12 15 15 24 15 9 11 10 54
Vocational 17 14 18 27 13 29 13 11 7 10 64 19 20 14 8 9
Alternative1 56 96 103 112 100 113 148 111 177 188 129 237 175 94 175 101
Combined elementary/secondary4 42 146 321 184 193 172 164 91 157 207 170 183 220 150 142 164
Regular 10 83 68 82 65 65 50 42 74 82 64 67 88 68 63 85
Special education 13 22 28 38 45 48 34 16 24 34 34 33 25 7 21 29
Vocational 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 3 0 2 1
Alternative1 19 40 225 64 83 58 79 33 59 90 70 83 104 75 56 49
Other (not classified by grade span) 216 144 389 257 530 710 214 449 263 162 126 188 111 71 37 2
Regular 113 89 98 172 341 348 110 174 165 61 81 103 52 53 14 1
Special education 57 23 214 26 38 108 22 194 15 20 7 9 7 1 13 1
Vocational 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alternative1 46 32 77 59 151 254 82 81 83 81 38 76 52 17 10 0
All charter schools5 72 171 206 267 133 161 189 216 202 183 284 308 280 181 247
Prior year enrollment of schools that have closed
Total, enrollment 173,766 209,228 297,487 229,259 242,388 268,212 243,166 306,806 321,246 300,764 240,704 274,397 211,681 194,653 188,561 266,777

— Not available.

1Includes schools that provide nontraditional education, address needs of students that typically cannot be met in regular schools, serve as adjuncts to regular schools, or fall outside the categories of regular, special education, or vocational education.

2Includes schools beginning with grade 6 or below and with no grade higher than 8.

3Includes schools with no grade lower than 7.

4Includes schools beginning with grade 6 or below and ending with grade 9 or above.

5Charter schools are also included under the school level and type categories, as appropriate.

NOTE: This table indicates the school year by which the school no longer operated (generally it closed between that school year and the prior school year). The closure of a school does not necessarily mean that a building is no longer used for educational purposes. A single school may share a building with another school, or one school may be housed in several buildings.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics, 2019 (NCES 2021-009), Table 216.95.

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