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Hall schools request more classroom space
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Enrollment is up in Hall County schools, and the district is requesting funding for more classroom space to accommodate the growing number of students.

Currently there are 27,168 students enrolled
districtwide, up from 27,128 at the beginning of the school year. Enrollment has increased consistently in the past six years, and is up by nearly 1,700 students since 2008.

The district will apply for funding with the state legislature to add 40 more classrooms at Johnson and Flowery Branch high schools.

Enrollment was 1,415 at Johnson and 1,780 at Flowery Branch as of Monday.

According to Matt Cox, facilities and construction manager for the district, state funding would cover around $1 million to $1.2 million of the cost, and the district will cover the rest using special purpose local option sales tax funds.

He said construction could cost $3.5 million to $4 million, not including additional costs beyond construction of the classrooms, but noted the amount is a rough estimate.

Cox said the state typically supplements the cost of additional classroom space if a district can show a need for it based on enrollment.

He said the district has been aware of an upward trend in enrollment, and Department of Education formulas have confirmed the growth pattern.

“We’re beginning to get that growth building on the southern part of the county,” he said.

Cox added that plans may change before construction begins.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “We’ve just applied (with the state) to show our interest in getting some funding.”

Cox said the legislature typically approves funding for districts that meet the growth criteria. Now that the funding is being applied for, he said the next steps are to determine what the construction may cost and to plan the distribution of classrooms between the two schools.

He said the construction will likely begin around next summer and take at least 8 to 10 months. He said design and planning will also take time, and the timeline for construction will be more clear once those phases are underway.

The classrooms will be permanent, not modular units.

In the meantime, the district says it is able to accommodate its growing student body.

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

The county has seen an increase in enrollment but a drop in the number of teachers over the past five years thanks to layoffs that occurred during the height of the recession.

Turpin said the county has slowly begun to add more teachers since then, including 18 to 20 new teaching positions that were added this year.