Enrollment rates keep growing in Columbia County schools

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – We all know Columbia County has seen a wealth of growth in recent years, but now there’s real concrete evidence of that said growth.

Stevens Creek Elementary is just one of the many schools seeing more students enroll this year. They saw 60 new faces Wednesday, and say they expect more to continue enrolling in the next few weeks.

And we're not just seeing that growth in that school, but it’s showing up across the board. News 12 is looking into those updated numbers.

Wednesday marked Katherine Hill's third first day at Evans High School. She says it's a zoo in there.

"There definitely has been more people in the hallways, and of course the class sizes have gone up," said the high school Junior.

From new freshman to new transfers, the count so far is at 40 new enrollments for the 2018-2019 school year. Katherine's teacher said she had to bump up the number of classes she teaches.

"Last year there were 2 intro classes and now she's up to 3 intro classes and they're all the way full like there's no more room for any more kids to come in."

All this just on day one of the new year. Michael Johnson is the principal at Evans High, and he says he knows the reason behind the rise in students.

"Numbers have probably increased across the CSRA because of the different job opportunities that are in this area, like Plant Vogtle and cyber along with our medical field here with Augusta University, which is a good thing. You're going to continue to see this area grow," Johnson explained the new growth in population.

1,780 students walked through EHS Wednesday, but schools expect students to continue enrolling until about Labor Day. Principal Johnson says they expect to have about 1,840 students enrolled total. That’s an increase from last year’s 1,801.

"We love the influx of students as long as it's not overwhelming and right now it's not overwhelming."

But he says it was overwhelming just two years ago. That was before the county rezoned a whopping 17 schools.

"In the past, we have had large numbers that have caused a little bit of overcrowding, but in the past two years, we haven't seen a large overcrowding. The rezoning really did help us."

After rezoning, enrollment dropped. Principal Johnson says it's finally climbing back up, but this time at a more manageable rate.

"To me it means we're doing something right. I'm excited about the growth of our school because parents are shopping around and finding areas where they want to move, where they want their children to go to school."

We don't any word yet on rezoning plans for this year, but this was actually the first year in a while the Columbia County School District didn't open any new schools in the area.

The new North Harlem Elementary School is scheduled to open next year, and the county says that will definitely impact future rezoning proposals.