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Overcoming overcrowding
South Hall seeing explosive growth in student numbers
Crews from Charles Black Construction, the project's general contractor, work Tuesday at the Hall County middle and high school complex on Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Hear Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County Schools, discuss the various scenarios administrators are mulling over for the new Spout Springs school’s role in the county system.
A $36.5 million Hall County school is under construction off Spout Springs Road. And within the next month, educators will determine which county students will be gracing its new hallways when it opens in August 2009.

Will Schofield, superintendent of the Hall County school system, said administrators are considering two scenarios to best use the 1,500-student school.

Schofield said the new school is needed to accommodate the overcrowding in the Flowery Branch High School district, where the high school will exceed its 1,200-student capacity by about 200 students this fall. More than 1,000 students are enrolled at its feeder school, Davis Middle, this year. Also, 15 portable units are used on the middle school campus - more than any school in the county - to accommodate the student overflow.

Some students from Martin and Chestnut Mountain elementaries, as well as all of Friendship and Spout Springs elementaries feed into Davis Middle and Flowery Branch High.

"Between a year and a year and a half ago ... almost all of our middle and high school growth was happening in the Flowery Branch High School district," Schofield said. "It's been the Gwinnett spill over, that's where we've had the tremendous housing starts ... people are just coming out of the metro area and are finding South Hall."

He said without the new Spout Springs school, projections show Flowery Branch High could have close to 1,800 students by the 2010-2011 school year, and Davis Middle could have nearly 1,500 students.

Schofield said the new school could be used as a combined middle and high school, which would require a ripple effect of redistricting for all county middle and high schools to create a seventh middle and high school district. Or the school system could shuffle some middle and high school grades around to Davis Middle, Flowery Branch High and the new Spout Springs schools, which would not require any redistricting.

Schofield has suggested the second scenario, in which sixth- and seventh-graders attend school at the current Davis Middle School building, eighth- and ninth-graders attend school at the current Flowery Branch High School building and 10th- through 12th-graders attend school at the new Spout Springs school under construction.

"We're leaning toward the second scenario more at this point," he said. "It's just not making sense right now to move any district lines. ... As a system, we try to redistrict as little as possible. It's a very emotional process when people's schools get redistricted. ... We think there's a lot to be said for keeping groups of children together."

The county superintendent said the district may even look at the possibility of adding more eighth- and ninth-grade academies across the county system.

"Children really struggle through that transition," he said. "It's more of a controlled experience than a traditional high school and would offer more and more high school course opportunities to our middle school students."

Schofield said a redistricting forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the Hall County Central Office for administrators to present the various scenarios for parents' consideration.

Although the county school system faces an explosive increase in student population in the next 10 years, Schofield said Hall County is a lot better off than its metro Atlanta neighbors.

He said the site of the new Spout Springs school is large enough to accommodate a sister middle school if the county decides to adopt the 10th- through 12th-grade scenario for the new school. Schofield said that middle school could be built within the next three to five years.