Columbia County opened an entire new school this year without laying a single brick.
Anecdotally, that’s the effect of unexpectedly high enrollment, as Superintendent Charles Nagle reported opening figures to the Board of Education Tuesday night.
“We’re growing,” Nagle said. “As of right now we’re over our projection” by 612 students.
“When you’re talking about 612 students, that’s a school,” he said.
When the 2011-12 school year closed, there were 23,622 students enrolled in the county’s public schools. So far this year, there are 24,234 enrolled.
“That number continues to change, and it’s going up,” he said. Historically, finally enrollment numbers don’t settle down until after Labor Day.
School officials had planned for an increase of 387 students for the year, so the additional numbers meant the board Tuesday allowed the hiring of more teachers.
This year’s budget, balanced using teacher and paraprofessional reductions and a significant dip into the system’s reserve fund, included a “contingency” fund set aside for hiring 10 additional teachers; instead, as many as 15 will be needed, Nagle said.
The highest growth in student populations continues to be in the Grovetown area, Nagle reported. Cedar Ridge Elementary added 64 students, Baker Place Elementary added 61 and Grovetown High added 63 students.
This year’s increase will continue to affect the schools in coming years: the system had to add four kindergarten classes to accommodate 108 more pupils than expected, Nagle said.
Also Tuesday, the school system recognized each school’s teacher of the year, and named the five finalists for the county honor. They are Katie Holmes, from Baker Place Elementary; Mandy Guley, from River Ridge Elementary; Angie McDaniel, from Stevens Creek Elementary; Barry O’Neill, from Greenbrier High School; and Norman Cox, from Lakeside High School.
The winning teacher of the year, chosen by a panel of outside educators based on classroom observations, will be named at an October banquet.