Student enrollment higher than expected in Columbia County

School officials on Tuesday named the five finalists for Columbia County Teacher of the Year: Katie Holmes (from left), Mandy Guley, Angie McDaniel, Barry O'Neill and Norman Cox. The winner will be named in October.

Columbia County opened an entire new school this year without laying a single brick.

That, in effect, is the result of unexpectedly high enrollment, Superintendent Charles Nagle reported to the Board of Education on Tuesday night.

“We’re growing,” Nagle said. “As of right now, we’re over our projection (by 612 students). When you’re talking about 612 students, that’s a school.”

When the 2011-12 school year closed, there were 23,622 students enrolled in the county’s public schools. So far this year, there are 24,234 enrolled.

“That number continues to change, and it’s going up,” he said.

Historically, final enrollment numbers don’t settle down until after Labor Day.

Officials had planned for an increase of 387 students for the year, so the additional numbers meant the board on Tuesday allowed the hiring of more teachers.

This year’s budget, balanced using teacher and paraprofessional reductions and a significant dip into the system’s reserve fund, included a “contingency” fund set aside for hiring 10 additional teachers; instead, as many as 15 will be needed, Nagle said.

The highest growth continues to be in the Grovetown area, Nagle said. Cedar Ridge Elementary added 64 students, Baker Place Elementary added 61 and Grovetown High added 63.

The increase will affect the schools in coming years: The system had to add four kindergarten classes to accommodate 108 more pupils than expected, Nagle said.

The school system also recognized each school’s teacher of the year and named the finalists for the county honor. They are Katie Holmes, from Baker Place Elementary; Mandy Guley, from River Ridge Elementary; Angie McDaniel, from Stevens Creek Elementary; Barry O’Neill, from Greenbrier High School; and Norman Cox, from Lakeside High School.

The winning teacher, chosen by a panel of outside educators based on classroom observations, will be named at an October banquet.

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