While nearly 2,000 Hall County Schools students chose to attend a school outside their attendance zones last school year, South Hall residents have not had that freedom in recent years.
With buildings bursting at the seams at or beyond capacity, there just hasn’t been space available at middle and high schools in the southern end of the county to allow parents and students to choose schools outside their attendance zones.
Officials say that will change in just a little more than a year.
A seventh middle and high school are set to open with recently approved new attendance zones for all of South Hall effective in August 2018, creating more space at the other middle and high schools.
A classroom addition announced during last week’s school board meeting will likely add another 150-200 spaces for school choice and future growth at another South Hall school. In total, there are expected to be more than 800 spaces opened up by August 2018 to make room for growth — and school choice.
“From the day that we opened Davis Middle School and the day that we opened Flowery Branch High School, they’ve been at or over capacity,” Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said last week. “So, those particular schools have never been included in terms of schools that individuals could actually choose to attend outside of their current zones.”
The new middle and high school will start its first year in 2018-19 on the Spout Springs Road location where Flowery Branch currently sits.
The total enrollment for the new schools is projected at 1,634 — 944 at the high school and 690 at the middle school. It will open with a capacity for 1,800, according to information provided by the school district.
South Hall school space
The new schools sit on more than 130 acres and Schofield has said the plans are for that property to eventually house a new middle school building, leaving the high school with plenty of room to grow as well.
“That campus just sits so well that when the time comes — and there will come a time and it will probably come after me — that we’ll have to do some portable trailers before we make the big jump into the pool to build the middle school that goes along with it,” Schofield said. “That is the campus where the real capacity lies for future growth.”
Flowery Branch will move back to its original home now occupied by Davis Middle in August 2018. With other work already planned at Davis to get the building ready for the return of Flowery Branch, officials also presented preliminary plans to the board last week to add classroom space there to address future growth.
“While we’re doing all the construction on what will be Flowery Branch High School, we’re also doing an addition there which is going to add anywhere from 150 to 200 additional slots at Flowery Branch High School just because we know that we’re in that corridor where over the next 10 years we know we’re going to need space,” Schofield said. “That’ll give significant space in that facility for choice.”
Meanwhile, Davis is projected to have 1,223 students in 2017 and only 884 in 2018 when the school moves back to its former home at the current South Hall Middle and attendance zones change. South Hall will move to the Academies of Discovery in 2018 and is projected to have its enrollment drop from 1,028 this August to 966 when the new schools open with the new attendance zones in August 2018. The other two schools at the Academies of Discovery, World Language and Da Vinci, are set up with stable enrollments, according to Schofield, and are not expected to increase. A new addition is planned there to make room for South Hall.
Johnson High School is not moving to another building in 2018, but is expected to see enrollment drop from nearly 1,600 students this August to 1,184 a year later, according to figures provided by the district.
Schofield said he does not anticipate growth causing any of the high schools to have enrollments more than 1,700-1,800 in the next 10 to 20 years.