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Impact of rezonings on school district reviewed

Planning board takes look at calculations

POSTED: October 18, 2013 12:14 a.m.

The formula for projecting how many new students a residential development could generate soon will be refined.

The estimates provided by the Forsyth County school system are included in staff reports for rezoning applications, and sometimes, those figures are called into question during planning board public hearings.

The board spoke with Tim Amerson, the schools’ facilities planning coordinator, on Tuesday to get a better understanding of how the numbers are determined and how those students impact the system.

The topic was discussed at the board’s work session as part of an ongoing series of guest speakers on issues related to zoning.

The current figures estimating the number of elementary, middle and high school students from a proposed subdivision come from a ratio of U.S. Census data for the county, which shows that about 62 percent of Forsyth households have school-aged children, Amerson said.

He’s been preparing student impact studies based on that formula for nearly a dozen years. As of January, however, he will refine those projections using actual trends in enrollment numbers within each quadrant of the county.

“As of late, we’ve had some questions about how that impact study matches with what’s currently happening in the new subdivisions,” Amerson said. “What we’ve now come up with is a plan to break Forsyth County up into four districts … to be able to get a fairly close count for each of these regions for how many students we really expect coming out of there.”

Newer subdivisions are expected to add more students than older ones, as children grow up but parents don’t move away, he said.

Some schools have slightly declining enrollment numbers, likely in the older neighborhoods, Amerson said, but the district overall continues to add more than a thousand students each year.

The system is in the process of redistricting elementary and middle schools in south Forsyth to “even out” the crowding, he said, though the buildings still will be above capacity.

Amerson added that a plan is in place to build new schools according to growth.

Responding to a question by board member Jayne Iglesias, Amerson explained that class size isn’t impacted by crowding, though strain can be placed on core facilities, such as the cafeteria.

The number of students in a class is based on a teacher allotment formula. If additional physical space is needed, the school will add portable classrooms.

Board member Joe Moses noted that the school system operates in the reverse of the saying “If you build it, they will come.”

Once people move in, schools will be built to accommodate them as needed, Amerson said.

If a rezoning application is approved, it could be several years before anyone moves in, he said, so the district bases its growth on enrollment numbers.



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