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District gaining students
Enrollment growth third largest in U.S.
Lambert WEB
Lambert High School students fill the hallways as they head to class Friday. Enrollment growth in the Forsyth County school system is among the fastest in the nation. - photo by Autumn Vetter

The nation is discovering something the local school system has long known — Forsyth County is growing fast.

Govistics recently released analysis of U.S. Census of Governments data that lists Forsyth as having the third largest gain in student enrollment, behind two independent school districts in Texas.

According to the analysis, Forsyth has grown 45 percent between 2005 and ’10. That’s a rate School Superintendent Buster Evans said matches the local system’s numbers.

Since 2000, the system, which currently has more than 38,000 students, has grown 118 percent, said Evans, adding the Govistics data “confirms what we’ve seen on our local growth.”

“It confirms what we’ve been projecting, what we’ve been planning for and what we’ve been responding to,” he said. “It’s nice to also see how you compare nationally against other growth areas … for a reflection of our community and the fact that people have, for a long period of time, seen Forsyth County as a great place to be.”

Govistics, a product of the Center for Governmental Research, also shows a list of the top and lowest-spending school districts.

While Forsyth missed the top-10 lowest spending list, it wasn’t by much, said Dan Jones, system finance director.

“We missed this national top-10 list by approximately $50, which we believe is an exceptional feat,” he said. “We have been able to keep our costs low despite adding more students and facilities by making reductions each year.”

The District of Columbia topped the chart for highest spending school districts at $29,409 per pupil. Meridian, Idaho, was the lowest at $6,871 per pupil.

With the exception of two in California, the other lowest-spending school districts were in Utah, with Washington, Utah, placing 10th at $7,820. Forsyth County’s per-pupil expenditure is about $7,868 per student.  

“We are currently operating at the same funding level as we were in 2007 when we had 8,000 fewer students,” Jones said.

He contributed the feat to “a combination of things” led by “employees working three fewer days for four straight years” and increased class sizes across the district.

Also, Jones said, “added flexibility through our IE2 partnership with the state has helped our costs, especially with continued decreases in state and local revenue.”

As a result of its Investing in Education Excellence contract, the system is allowed more freedom from state mandates in exchange for increased accountability.

The Govistics study showed many school districts appear cautious to alter spending with a rise in enrollment. Evans said the similarities affirm the county is on the right track.

“It gives us an additional degree of confidence to show we’ve been doing this and this has been validated by someone else,” he said. “We don’t see that growth stopping.

“Even during the last four years, while we saw it slow down, we’ve still seen that continued growth trend. And there’s nothing that says that’s going to stop anytime in the next several years.”