New Columbia County high school won't open till 2009

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October 18, 2006

Overcrowding in Columbia County schools will continue for at least one extra year.

The school board says the new high school won't be ready until at least 2009.

The county gets hundreds of new students every year.

That means the longer it takes to build the new school, the more overcrowded classes will become.

Smaller numbers and more personal attention means students spend more time learning and less time socializing.

"The kids get along well, even if it's crowded," parent Terry Knight told News 12. "But as far as the teaching, it's always going to be better if you have a small class."

Knight says keeping classes right at or under the state requirement of around 30 is ideal for her children. Teacher Debbie Daniels agrees...and studies show a direct link between smaller classes and better standardized test scores.

"I can determine what they need better, I can help on a regular basis better, there are all kinds of advantages for having smaller classes...and no disadvantages," Daniels said.

But she won't be able to enjoy those advantages until at least 2009, when the fifth high school is set to open.

Each Columbia County High School has roughly 2000 students. Things can get pretty crowded. The new school will reduce the number of students per school by several hundred. That's equivalent to ten classrooms.

The reductions will mean a decrease in class sizes and the use of portables...a welcome change for teacher Susan Bell, who spent some time without a permanent classroom because there weren't enough to go around.

"Not only was it inconvenient for us to float from room to room, but the teacher who was in that room never had time to plan or organize, because someone was always in her room," Bell said.

For teachers, and mothers like knight, the new school means more planning, more learning, and more space in the classroom.

"It can't help alleviate the crowding, but that's five years down the road, and we'll be more crowded than we are now," Daniels said.

Associate superintendent Charles Nagle says the board plans to buy the land for the new high school in the next two months.

That will likely be near Columbia and Chamberlain Roads.

The delay happened because of problems with the land. Apparently there is a layer of rock underground which will take time and money to dig up. That's why construction will need at least another year.