The Columbia County school system grew by 535 students this year.
According to enrollment figures released during a Tuesday school board meet-ing, nearly 22,900 students are attending the county's public schools. That figure is 274 more than school offi-cials projected.
"It's always a good thing when you're growing," Superintendent Charles Nagle told the board. "It says a lot about you and a lot about this school system."
Greenbrier High School grew by nearly 200 more students than initially projected, while Harlem High enrolled 114 students fewer than expected, for a total enrollment of 667.
At 347 pupils, Euchee Creek Elementary is the county's smallest school, while Greenbrier High is the largest with an enrollment of 1,778.
Also at the meeting, school officials introduced a new method to select pupils for the lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program.
Parents must register their children for the pre-k program at their zoned elementary school in March. Those registered will be placed on a list and tagged with a four-digit identification number that will be provided to parents.
A drawing will be held prior to spring break at the school board office.
After the drawing, the results will be posted on the school board's Web site, and parents can use the identification number to check online to see if their child was selected.
Previously, pre-k drawings were held at schools where parents had to register on the day of the drawing.
Michele Sherman, director of elementary learning and architect of the new pre-k drawing plan, said past drawings were time-consuming and often resulted in angry parents taking out their frustrations on educators.
"Just taking the circus atmosphere out of it is going to be the important part," Nagle said.
Conducting the drawing at the central office also helps prevent tampering with the process, Sherman said.
The lottery process came under fire in 2007 after some parents accused some school officials of rigging the drawing.
To avert tampering, Sherman said, the registration information for each pupil will be kept by each school's registration coordinator and herself.
Copies of the information will be stored in a secure room at the school board office.
On the day of the drawing, lists will be double-checked to make sure everyone registered is included in the drawing. Also, the process will be videotaped to ensure no tampering takes place.
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