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District growing, just not as fast
Projections on track for '09-10
trailer move 2 jd
James Johnson checks the suspension under a portable classroom before he hauls it away from Shiloh Point Elementary. The school is one of several in the local district that won’t need trailers this year thanks to the opening of other schools. - photo by Jim Dean
About 50 new students a day register to attend school in Forsyth County.

Already, three of the county’s five high schools have exceeded enrollment expectations for the upcoming school year.

Still, officials are projecting a conservative growth rate of about 4 percent, which would be the lowest in recent years.

School board chairwoman Ann Crow said that figure, which actually tops the rate of people moving to the county, reflects the downturn in the economy and housing industry.

“We are still having people move in, just not at the same rate as in the past,” she said. “The 4 percent rate is actually the number of students that were probably already here, just moving up from pre-kindergarten into the system.”

The system expects to have 33,816 students when the 2009-10 school year starts on Aug. 10. There are currently 32,989 students enrolled.

At its current registration pace, enrollment projections are on track, though a far cry from earlier this decade.

Entering the 2006-07 school year, the school system grew by 10 percent, its largest influx of students this decade.

In 2007-08, the system saw a slight dip, growing at 8 percent. The slide continued last year, with just a 5.46 percent increase.

So far, only Brookwood Elementary school has exceeded projections for registering students entering kindergarten.

While many elementary schools are closing the gap between projected and registered kindergarteners, both Chestatee and Sawnee elementary schools have a ways to go, each needing between 60 and 83 students.

The system is adding five new schools this year, including a high school and middle school, as well as Brookwood and two other elementary schools.

Because of the new facilities, about a dozen campuses will have fewer classes being taught in portable buildings. Some, like Shiloh Point, Cumming and Daves Creek elementary schools won’t use trailers at all.

But when students shift to new schools, so do teachers.

While most of the staffing changes have been made, Brookwood and schools with higher-than-projected enrollments, may have to pull teachers from schools falling short of estimates.

“Sometimes we have to remove a teacher from one school to another school because the numbers may not be at one school and there won’t be enough students to populate that class,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, district spokeswoman. “But in another school, there’s growth.

“It’s a rare occurrence that it’s done after school starts, but it does occur.”

Crow said many of the new students registering are coming from private schools or were previously being home schooled.

Many parents are giving the school system a go because of the economy, she said, adding it’s a reflection of the system’s quality to garner that trust.

Despite slower growth, the district is taking the next step toward opening Kelly Mill Elementary School in 2011.

The school board on Thursday approved a capital outlay application that will go to the state Department of Education.

While the system could receive nearly $8 million in entitlement money toward the new campus, there is some question as to whether it will be needed so soon.

The slower pace of growth, Crow said, could be a blessing in disguise.

“I think that growth is good in many ways,” she said. “But it is, in a way, nice to have a breather so we can re-evaluate where we are.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at jennifersami@forsythnews.com.