Columbia County's one-year student enrollment growth nearly broke a 15-year-old record this year.
Enrollment grew by 782 students in the 2005-06 school year, compared with the previous school year, according to figures given to the school board in a recent meeting.
Columbia County school Superintendent Tommy Price said one-year growth hasn't been that high since 1990, when the school system grew by more than 800 students.
"This is definitely the second single-highest rate of growth since I've been here," he said.
Including the 42 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina who have been enrolled in Columbia County Schools makes this year's number jump to 824.
Last year, the system topped 20,000 enrollment for the first time. Enrollment for the first 20 days of school this year is 20,936.
The added numbers are straining already crowded schools, Price said.
"We're pushed to the limit right now," he said. "That was particularly notable at River Ridge, where we came in way over projection and opened that school at capacity."
River Ridge Elementary School is the county's newest school and was built to help relieve overcrowding at Greenbrier, Stevens Creek and Riverside elementary schools.
School officials estimated enrollment at River Ridge for its first year at 518. The actual enrollment was 100 higher, forcing administrators to open two new kindergarten classes and a first-grade class.
"We don't have any portables out there yet, but we're close," Associate Superintendent Charles Nagle said. "We're probably set for this year, but next year, maybe."
Not including evacuee students, school officials underestimated 2005 enrollment by 268 students.
So far, the extra students haven't proved too difficult to handle, Price said.
"Fortunately, we've got enough schools now to spread out 200 kids," he said.
However, that could change if more students continue to enroll.
"We're really at that point now if we continue to add small numbers at particular locations we'll exceed class-size limitations at those sites and we'll have no choice but to purchase some portable space and deal with it," Price said.
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