Paris schools close 20 classes as families flee the city

There are 6,000 fewer maternelle and primary school pupils in Paris this year
There are 6,000 fewer maternelle and primary school pupils in Paris this year. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP
Paris started its 2021-22 school year with 6,000 fewer kindergarten and primary school students than last year, as more people are leaving the city as a result of the Covid crisis, say officials.

The number of Paris schoolchildren has been falling steadily over the past decade, leading to the closure of several schools.

But the five-percent drop this year, to 113,000 students, is two to three times bigger than in previous years.

As a result, the net loss has been 20 classes closed across the city this year, leaving an average of 21 children in each maternelle (kindergarten) class and 20 in primary schools – “numbers that other cities would dream of having,” Bloche added.

The trend confirms reports from real-estate agents who have also remarked on many families deciding to leave Paris and move to the countryside or smaller towns. The Paris suburbs are also seeing an increase in people looking for properties to buy or rent.

The experience of lockdown in small apartments with young children prompted many families to rethink their lifestyle, while the increase in remote working has meant that for many moving out of their city while keeping their job is now practical.

“We’re seeing both the structural phenomenon of lower birth rates” combined with “the effects of Covid and working from home,” said Patrick Bloche, one of the city’s deputy mayors.

Birth rates in France have seen a steady decline in recent years, although it remains the country with the highest birth rate in the EU.

READ ALSO Births, marriages and deaths: What happened to France’s demographics in 2020?

President Emmanuel Macron has already promised to address the problem of large class sizes that other schools are struggling with.

With many companies expected to make working from home much more widespread even after the Covid crisis is over, more families with children could quit the capital.

Years of rising real estate prices that have put larger apartments out of reach for many.

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