FORSYTH COUNTY — Anyone living in or passing through Forsyth, especially the south end, could guess this — new census figures show the county is one of the fastest growing in the nation. Again.
According to annual figures released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau, Forsyth County experienced the 11th highest percent change in population growth from 2014 to ’15, which marks the highest in Georgia.
Population estimates as of July 1, 2014, were 203,882 and had risen to 212,438 as of July 1, 2015.
This 4.2 percent change tied with Morgan County, Utah, and Kendall County, Texas, though they have about 11,000 and 40,000 residents, respectively.
Forsyth also ranked 11th in the country for population growth over the past five years, representing a 21 percent increase from 175,511 people in 2010.
The rise from 2010 has accelerated in the past few years, with Forsyth coming in at No. 18 in 2013 and at No. 12 in 2014.
Fast-paced, sustained growth does not surprise local officials, especially in the school system, an area that sees the effects every day.
Forsyth County Schools has experienced enrollment surges since the late ’90s, including throughout the recession, according to Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district.
Challenges that come with such increases include hiring and retaining high-quality staff, “accommodating the growth from a financial aspect and planning for capital improvements.”
“Our voters have generously approved bond and SPLOST referendums to provide these much needed resources,” Caracciolo said. “The first large-sale phase of our 2014 bond projects, which includes improvements at existing schools and opening two new schools, will be complete this summer.”
Brandywine Elementary and DeSana Middle, both in southwest Forsyth, are set to open in August.
As per state law, new schools cannot be funded and built until a district can prove existing schools are crowded. In Forsyth, that has meant new schools often are near capacity by the time they welcome their first students.
“Next school year, we will complete second-phase projects at existing schools, and in 2018, [we will] open Denmark High School and the Alliance Academy for Innovation,” Caracciolo said.
“We are also expanding non-traditional offerings that won’t strain our facilities’ needs, such as online, hybrid, dual enrollment and flexible scheduling options.”
She said the community, as a whole, values and supports education, helping to retain the district as one of the top-performing in the state and nation in the face of growth.
The fastest growing county in the U.S. from 2014 to ’15 was McKenzie County, N.D., which grew 16.7 percent to a population of 12,826.
Forsyth’s population total is smaller than only one county growing faster: Fort Bend, Texas, which grew 4.3 percent to reach an estimated 716,087 people.
Other Georgia counties that ranked in the top 100 include: Bryan County at 22nd (3.6 percent); Columbia County at 28th (3.4 percent); Long County at 39th (3.2 percent); Effingham County at 51st (3 percent); Barrow County at 53rd (3 percent); Clarke County at 80th (2.6 percent); Fannin County at 93rd (2.5 percent); and Jackson County at 96th (2.4 percent).
All population estimates are for counties with 10,000 or more people.