Kneeland Elementary, one of California’s smallest public schools, was on the verge of closing when the pandemic hit. Now, it has gone from an average daily attendance of 12 to 33 students, and has a third teacher, thanks to an influx of kids who had been withering away in front of Zoom screens elsewhere. It is a bright spot in California’s public school enrollment. Last Fall, the state’s K-12 population dipped below 6 million for the first time since 2000, as students struggled with online learning, especially in large urban districts. While rural schools also lost students to home-schooling amid a backlash against Covid-19 mask and vaccine mandates, some small districts, like Kneeland, actually grew, said Tim Taylor, executive director of the Small School Districts Assn.

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