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When school opened in September, officials at the Philadelphia School District expected 135,000 students to walk in the doors. Only 131,000 did.

Where did those 4,000 missing students go?

Two months later, as official headcounts are becoming available, answers have emerged.

It turns out that 1,532 turned up in bricks-and-mortar charter schools; another 400 are now enrolled in cyber charters and about 425 migrated to Catholic mission schools in the city.

The mission schools consist of a consortium of 13 former parish elementary schools that were given their independence by the archdiocese. Their ‘mission’ is to serve the educational needs of poor, primarily non-Catholic, students and many of the students receive scholarships to help pay for tuition.

This leaves about 1,640 students still ‘missing’, but it’s doubtful we will find out who they are and where they went.  Students who transfer out of the district – or out of state –are left unaccounted for unless their new school requests a transcript from the student’s Philadelphia school.

Obviously, the district’s financial problems, accompanied by several rounds of layoffs, had an impact.  The district closed 24 schools and those that remained open were left with fewer personnel to perform basic tasks, such as counseling. There is no certainty the situation will improve next year.

As a result, the flight of students from district schools continues.

The district began the new century with 205,199 students enrolled and the numbers have ticked down every year since.

If the trend line of the past five years continues over the next five, the district will fall below 100,000 enrollment by school year 2018-19.

In the meantime, the district is going to have to come up with ways to pay charter schools for their newly enrolled students.  District administrators already had budgeted more money for increases in charter enrollment.

It won’t be enough because enrollment grew at a faster rate than expected.  The eventual bill, to reimburse bricks-and-mortar and cyber charters for nearly 2,000 additional students will total about $20 million.