Growth packs schools in Columbia County

Jim Blaylock/Staff
Harlem High School students walk down the hallways after school. The Columbia County school board has projected thet the school system will have 680 more students for the 2007-08 school year than this year.

More pupils coming into Columbia County means more teachers, more portable classrooms and more taxpayer money spent.


School officials recently released enrollment projections for the 2007-08 school year and estimate the system will grow by 680 pupils to a total of 22,377.

According to the projections, Harlem High School will take on the most new students with 99, closely followed by Greenbrier High School with 98.

"We are filled to the gills," Harlem High Principal Alan Griffin said.

The likelihood of nearly 100 more students attending the school come August, when the new school year begins, could result in more portable classrooms and more teachers sharing classroom space, Mr. Griffin said.

With eight portables already on Harlem's campus, adding more will be a tight squeeze, he said.

Harlem High is projected to have 455 freshmen next year, Superintendent Tommy Price said.

"That is really, really an aberration from typical class sizes for them," he said. "It is the largest ninth grade ever at Harlem."

Mr. Price attributes Harlem High's growth to the population explosion in the Grovetown area.

Population growth countywide is producing a record number of incoming freshmen.

"Assuming projections are on target, we're going to go over 2,000 in that particular grade, and that's the first time we've ever had any grade level go over 2,000," Mr. Price said.

The projected ninth-grade enrollment figures for all four of the county's public high schools totals 2,066.

Of the county's middle schools, Evans Middle is expected to grow the most with 75 new pupils, but it still only is the county's second-largest middle school with 929 pupils. The expected addition of 19 students at Riverside Middle will push its enrollment into four figures: 1,012.

Lewiston Elementary is projected to grow by 91 pupils, the most of any county elementary school.

In the case of Lewiston, about 70 pupils will be diverted to Euchee Creek Elementary as part of a rezoning.

Also, a 12-classroom addition will be built to accommodate the growth.

Grovetown Elementary might get as many as 84 new pupils, but much of its population will move to a new elementary school opening in August.

"We kind of break even with what we're doing with the rezoning," Mr. Price said.

So far, 40 new certified personnel positions, which includes teachers, administrators, counselors and media specialists, will be created to accommodate the growth and to staff the new elementary school.

The numbers don't account for new positions needed for high schools and special-needs programs, Mr. Price said.

"We know that's going to continue to rise," he said.

Certified personnel allocations are the driving factor for setting a new budget each year. About 90 percent of the county's $150 million budget is used for salary and benefits.

"When you start thinking about 60 or 70 new teachers, you're talking between $3 million and $4 million alone just for that," Mr. Price said.

The Columbia County Board of Education likely will discuss new teaching positions at its next board meeting Tuesday.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or


Bel Air Elementary4890
Blue Ridge Elementary660-6
Brookwood Elementary*66740
Euchee Creek Elementary*63417
Evans Elementary454-7
Greenbrier Elementary66264
Grovetown Elementary*85684
Lewiston Elementary*85391
Martinez Elementary508-3
North Columbia Elementary3717
North Harlem Elementary5295
River Ridge Elementary71743
Riverside Elementary78329
South Columbia Elementary480-23
Stevens Creek Elementary91020
Westmont Elementary501-35
Columbia Middle74722
Evans Middle92975
Greenbrier Middle88428
Grovetown Middle63938
Harlem Middle403-33
Lakeside Middle752-3
Riverside Middle1,01219
Evans High1,92730
Greenbrier High2,14298
Harlem High1,30099
Lakeside High1,568-19

*The populations at each of these schools will be affected by a recently approved rezoning brought about by the opening in August of a new elementary school in Grovetown.

Source: Columbia County Board of Education