As Augusta-area schools prepare for a projected influx of military families at Fort Gordon, Richmond County Board of Education officials are discussing ways to prevent additional overcrowding at two schools already with rising student populations.
Langford Middle School and Sue Reynolds Elementary are some of the most densely populated schools in Richmond County, and both could be affected by the relocation of the Army’s Cyber Command to Fort Gordon.
While the relocation won’t be complete until 2019, service members are projected to begin moving to Fort Gordon this summer. Board members worry the load could be too much for schools like Langford and Sue Reynolds.
Langford’s student population continues to increase, with a projected 920 students during the 2014-2015 year. Sue Reynolds currently has 807 students.
“These schools are dealing with some of the highest enrollment numbers in our area,” Board Vice Chair Helen Minchew said. “They’ve been dealing with that high enrollment for several years. And now that Fort Gordon is expanding, soldiers will be moving in to the neighborhoods around Fort Gordon. And while no one is sure where these families will be sending their children to school, both Langford and Sue Reynolds have shown huge amounts of growth over the past few years. We need to make sure we’re planning for this growth.”
Help is coming, though.
A new wing is being built at Langford, which will add 10 classrooms and two technology labs with funds obtained through a sales tax package. The wing is expected to house sixth grade and facets of the Langford magnet program.
Construction of the new wing is slated to end next April. In the meantime, six portable buildings will be used.
Sue Reynolds recently completed the addition of eight new classrooms, also paid for with sales tax money. The new rooms will be ready for the new school year.
“In total, we’ve been building 20 new teaching spaces at these schools,” Project Manager Jeff Baker said. “All of it is designed to handle the growth at these schools.”
Officials have also considered changing attendance zones to allow military families and civilian contractors living outside Fort Gordon the opportunity to attend the base’s Freedom School.
“If they are available, it could give the schools some relief,” Superintendent Frank Roberson said. “It would require some shifting around of attendance zones. But we have not discussed that yet. It remains just a possibility.”
Regardless of the challenges growth brings, administrators at Sue Reynolds seem excited by the opportunity given to them as new families move to the area.
“I think we can bring in new students quite comfortably,” Principal Cheri Ogden said. “We have those eight new classrooms, so we can start getting new students immediately. We’ll have room.”