In 1990, the Census Department estimated that Forsyth County had a total of 44,000 residents.
When the first bells ring to open the 2013-14 school year on Thursday, there will be nearly as many students enrolled as the county had total residents just 23 years ago.
That’s a pretty amazing statistic.
It’s hard to believe that the “lazy, hazy days of summer,” have come and gone, at least on the unofficial calendar students use to mark the passing of each year’s seasons. But that is the case, as administrators, teachers and staff prepare to welcome 40,300 students back next week.
The new school year begins with educational philosophies much in the news at the national level, as leaders debate the merits of national curriculum standards, new standardized testing and questions over how best to establish accountability in education.
It remains to be seen how those discussions will play out, as elected and appointed officials at the state and national level jockey for legislative territory in an ongoing debate over where decisions about education should be made and by whom.
They would do well to look at Forsyth County as a template for educational achievement.
Despite the challenges of constant growth and an increasingly diverse student population, the local school system continues to excel in preparing students for life in the world beyond the classroom.
Even so, it is impossible to ignore the realities that come with student population growth. This school year will begin with 99 portable classrooms being used on school campuses. Forsyth is the ninth largest of the state’s school systems, and is expected to grow another 17 percent over the next five years.
Local school officials have a proven track record of keeping pace with growth without a lessening of academic achievement, but the challenges that come with a stagnant economy that hasn’t yet shown the rebound many had hoped to see cannot be overstated.
One key to keeping up with growth is having a community willing to invest in education, and Forsyth residents have shown that commitment time and time again, willingly voting to increase their own taxes to finance new facilities. More will be needed in the future.
Meanwhile, come Thursday morning those familiar yellow school buses will be back in force. Give yourself a few extra minutes of commuting time, and watch out for them and youngsters boarding and disembarking. Let’s start the year off safely.