PHOENIX — Enrollment appears to be increasing for public schools across Arizona, according to the latest student count numbers by the state Department of Education.

There were 3.5% more students attending Arizona's K-12 public schools in September compared to the same time last year. Kindergarten saw the biggest gains as there were 15.7% more kindergartners.

"While these are just preliminary numbers, the trends are encouraging and we are hopeful for a much better official enrollment count this school year compared with last year," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a statement.

This comes after enrollment declined by 38,500 students last school year compared to the previous year.

When broken down by school type, district schools saw a 6% decline in enrollment statewide last school year while charter schools saw a 9% increase.

Hoffman noted many Arizona families took their kids out of public school or were otherwise disengaged with their child's public school at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some parents also chose to delay enrolling their kids in kindergarten and pre-school programs. Combined, enrollment dropped by 17% for those grade levels last school year.

Hoffman credited the student count increase in part to the statewide Ready for School AZ campaign, which she said aimed to "re-engage students and families—and these preliminary student count numbers show signs of success."

"Even with the bumpy and confusing school year, it’s clear families are ready to get back to their public schools," Hoffman said.

"Fortunately, due to federal relief and recovery packages, more public schools now have the resources they need to help students and families make that adjustment."

Arizona has received more than $4 billion in federal COVID-19 recovery funds for education during the pandemic.