School officials expect more than 600 additional students to attend Columbia County schools next school year.
At a Columbia County school board meeting Tuesday, the board approved 2006-07 school year growth projections presented by school Superintendent Tommy Price.
Price estimated an additional 610 pupils, for a total of 21,188, will be enrolled in the county's schools next school year. The system grew by 834 pupils this year, about 200 more than projected, Price said.
"It was our largest growth year in a long time," he said.
However, considering the lack of classroom space in the overcrowded system, Price said he believes it necessary to remain conservative with enrollment projections.
"It pretty much drives our planning for next year's budget," he said.
Still, board member Regina Buccafusco wondered whether 610 might be too low a number.
"It might be," Price said.
Price also unveiled plans for what the system's next middle school will look like at the Tuesday meeting.
U-shape, with a gym off to the side, the school would represent the only two-story school building in the county.
"I think it's a great idea," board member Wayne Bridges said.
Hoping to place the two-story structure in Martinez, the board is negotiating to buy about 30 acres of property on Blackstone Camp Road. The acreage is what is typically needed for other Columbia County middle schools, but the topography of the land the board is looking to buy prohibits a more spread-out complex, Price said.
"They certainly don't have as much land to clear out as the Greenbrier and Grovetown (middle school) models," school trustee Roxanne Whitaker said.
If expansion is needed, more classrooms could be constructed onto the rear of the school, Price said.
The board hopes to buy land and begin construction on the school by January, in time for an August 2007 opening. The price for the new school and the land to build it on was not discussed in the meeting.
The board gave unanimous approval to the two-story architectural plan with only slight modifications.
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