Columbia County sees spike in enrollment, district 'scrambling' to make it work

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012

GROVETOWN, Ga. -- It's one of the fastest growing counties in the state, and Columbia County schools are bursting at the seams. The number of new students this year is nearly double what they were expecting.

It's a Catch-22: The district is growing and that's something to be proud of, but with that growth, comes more students and even less money.

"This is Ke'shaun, he is a third grader and 9 years old," said Windy Joell, who has two sons at Baker Place Elementary.

Her family moved to Grovetown last year.

"When we moved here, we were really particular about where we wanted our kids to go to school at," she said.

Joell's not alone.

For years, Columbia County schools have seen an increase in enrollment, but this year, they saw an even bigger spike.

"Growth is good, but we were not anticipating it. It's taken us by surprise and we're scrambling," said Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle.

The district planned for about 380 students to move into the county, but they got more than 600 and the majority of that growth is near Grovetown.

"There has been a lot of new classes and a lot of new students and it's expected because of all the development of all the subdivisions," Joell said.

The county is working to combat the growth with work on several new schools, including building the new Columbia Middle School.

"We're building our schools larger now to accommodate for the future," Nagle said.

But for this year, administrators are working to find more teachers.

"As of today, we're going to have to hire 12 positions," Nagle said.

"My son's second grade class, they had to get another teacher," Joell said.

This year's kindergarten class is one of the largest the county's ever seen. They've already added four classes since school started last week.

"We had over about 150 more kindergarteners this year than what we anticipated," Nagle said.

With numbers like these, they're hopeful more state money could come around December.

"Because of our excessive growth, we will get a mid-year adjustment. If we do not get that, then we may have to look at other measures," he said.

And those measures could even include furloughs, but it's too early to tell and will be avoided, if possible. Nagle says they will have to be even more conservative on spending to make sure they have enough money for teachers.

Keep in mind: The numbers typically keep growing until Labor Day. On a lighter note, out of the 70 parapros who were let go last year and wanted a position back within the district have been rehired.

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