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Schools keeping up with growing enrollment

POSTED: August 16, 2014 12:48 a.m.

Hall County Schools have seen a lot more students over the past five years, but a lot fewer teachers.

The district hired 18 to 20 new teachers this year, but has about 218 fewer certified staff members than in 2008 — a 10 percent drop — thanks to layoffs and attrition that occurred at the beginning of the economic downturn. Meanwhile, enrollment has increased consistently, and is up 1,652 since 2008.

Certified staff includes but is not limited to teachers.

In Gainesville, both enrollment and the number of teachers are up this year, but the district did not have to make layoffs during the economic crisis.

Total kindergarten through 12th-grade enrollment in Gainesville as of Friday was 7,804, up 384 from August of last year, or about 5 percent. The district budgeted for 20 new certified staff positions this year.

In Hall County, enrollment was 27,128 as of Wednesday, up 379 from the same point in the school year in 2013, or about 1 percent.

The Hall district lost 257 certified staff members from the 2008 school year to the 2011 school year, and has been gradually adding new teachers since then.

Aaron Turpin, executive director of technology for Hall schools, said the district had projected an increase in enrollment this year based on increases in previous years.

“We were prepared for additional students,” Turpin said. “We look at growth patterns and growth trends all the time. ... We look at areas of the county that are growing more than others.”

Brad Brown, executive director of human resources for the district, said there has been growth throughout the district, but more in the southern part of the county. He said C.W. Davis Middle School and Flowery Branch High School have seen the most growth.

Brown said the loss of teachers over the past five years is “significant.”

“We are working on adding some of them back into our numbers,” he said. “We’re down, and then we’ve inched back up.”

The new teachers, Brown said, will “alleviate a little overcrowding and higher classroom numbers.”

He estimated the average class size is now close to 25, where it was 29 or 30 previously. He said this varies by grade level, with class sizes of 20 or less for kindergarten classrooms and increasing along with grade levels.

“Class size averages increased by around three (students per class) when the teacher numbers started going down,” Brown said.

The district does not expect to have any problems with space this year, Brown said. In the past, he said, some schools have had to use modular units to make room for more students.

“This year the numbers were under what they need to be from a standpoint of space,” he said.

Priscilla Collins, chief achievement and accountability officer for Gainesville schools, said enrollment there was also in line with projections, but may have been distributed between schools slightly differently than expected.

“Some schools may be a little more or a little less than we anticipated,” she said.

Kindergarten enrollment, she said, was a little lower than expected, but she said the district has a good teacher-to-student ratio this year.

“We’re right where we need to be right now,” she said.


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