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Projecting school growth a tough job
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Forsyth County News
A pair of recent stories point out the complexities involved in accurately projecting growth in the county’s school system.

The school board on Oct. 16 decided by a 4-1 vote to move ahead with plans to open five new schools next year. That the school system gave consideration to not opening two of schools, despite the years spent in planning and construction of the facilities, is testament to the vagaries of trying to project years in advance how many students might be living where in the county.

In the end, school board members decided it made little sense to have students in trailer classrooms in some areas while brand new schools sat vacant, even though postponing opening of the new schools might have generated significant expense savings.

At the same meeting, board members approved a redistricting plan for students in the county that will result in many of them being moved from one school attendance zone to another next year.

The redrawing of school attendance zones is always an emotional and potentially controversial effort as students, parents and sometimes entire communities fight to remain in a particular school district.

The months-long process of redrawing attendance lines is based in part on projections of where students are expected to live in years to come, as well as where they live now.

In an ideal world, you could wait until the students moved in to make those decisions. Unfor-tunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The acquisition of land for new schools, approval of financing and actual construction take years to complete, making it impossible to wait until the students get here to decide where they will go to school.

It’s a daunting task in normal times with somewhat predictable growth patterns and economic conditions; the job is much tougher in times like these, when assumptions made just a few months ago now suddenly are suspect given the nation’s economic woes.

The key is to hope that growth projections are accurate to the point that schools are ready to open when they are needed. That the local system has been accurate in making such projections in the past is evidence of some very precise work in an imprecise field.

We concur with those on the school board who thought that it would be better to open all schools that are ready rather than to have some schools overcrowded while others sat empty, acknowledging as we do that there is additional cost in that course of action.