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Jefferson schools deal with surging enrollment
Jefferson Academy students load buses as they prepare to leave school for the day Tuesday afternoon. Higher enrollment numbers have school officials considering adding additional bus routes. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

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Three weeks into the school year and the Jefferson City School System already has reached and exceeded the number of students it had at the same point last year.

At the end of the second week of school last year, the system had 2,613 students. At that same point this year, enrollment was up nearly 100 students at 2,710.

"Enrollment is about where we it expected it to be," said Kim Navas, system financial officer. "We expected to gain around 100 kids, give or take a few."

Some of the new students are new to the area, while others transferred to the city schools from the Jackson County Schools System after their homes were annexed earlier this year. Currently the system’s four schools — Jefferson Elementary, Jefferson Academy, Jefferson Middle and Jefferson High — are comfortably accommodating the additional students.

"We don’t have any schools that have overcrowding issues at this time," said John Jackson, system superintendent.

With the exception of Jefferson Academy, which houses the system’s third- through fifth-grades, all of the schools had a significant increase in students. Jefferson High gained the most students, 46, which brings its enrollment to 740 students. Jefferson Middle gained 34 students, bringing enrollment to 616. Jefferson Elementary, which has pre-K through second grades, earned 21 students, for a total enrollment of 731 students. The academy’s enrollment only increased by four students, which raises enrollment numbers to 623.

While the school buildings may be able to handle the growth, the system’s buses are a different story.

At the end of last school year, Earl Griffin, system transportation director, reported to the Jefferson Board of Education that a double afternoon load had to be added at Jefferson Elementary, Academy and Middle. According to Griffin, the extra loads were necessary to accommodate the 59 new riders that had begun to take the bus after the Christmas holidays. More of the same continues this year.

"We are looking at a couple of bus routes that we may have to divide up," said Jackson. "We are at legal limits with all of our buses, but we may go ahead and split up some of the routes to free up more space."

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