A few weeks after cutting teacher and paraprofessional positions to balance the school budget, higher than projected enrollment is forcing the Columbia County School Board to reopen some of those positions.
School Superintendent Charles Nagle told board members Tuesday that enrollment for the year is up by more than 600 students compared to the end of the 2011-12 term.
“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, 24,234 have enrolled.
“That number continues to change, and it’s going up,” he said.
Historically, enrollment numbers don’t settle down until after Labor Day.
School officials had planned for an increase of 387 students for the year. The additional enrollments meant approving 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.
Some of the positions will be for half-time teachers to prevent a school barely over maximum class size from having to add a full teaching position, Nagle said. Without that “creative” strategy, he said, the system would have to hire as many as 18 new teachers.
“If something happens, we can move them into a full-time role,” he said.
The highest growth in student population 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.
Most of the increases came at the entry level: 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 teacher of the year, chosen by a panel of outside educators based on classroom observation, will be named in October.