For the second year in a row, student enrollment at Richmond County schools has decreased.
The decrease bucks the state trend, which says Georgia school enrollment is among the fasted growing in the nation.
A report recently released by the U.S. Department of Education says Georgia schools can expect to see an 8.1 percent student increase between now and 2009. About 1.4 million students are enrolled in state schools.
In Richmond County, as of Friday, enrollment figures show a loss of 542 students since last year, and last year's ending enrollment was 1,458 students less than the year before.
Currently, 34,780 students have enrolled in the county's 59 schools. The district ended the 1998-99 school term with 35,322. During the 1997-1998 school term, the district reported 36,780 students.
Before school started, officials had estimated a loss of 577 students. So far they have 35 more students than predicted.
Richmond County schools opened Aug. 20, officials say the enrollment figures will fluctuate throughout the school term.
"These numbers are based on the number of students who actually showed up at the beginning of school," said Donald Porter, director of public relations.
Deputy Superintendent Gene Sullivan, who Mr. Porter says is more knowledgeable about the enrollment figures, could not be reached for comment and Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke did not return repeated telephone calls left two days at his office.
Mr. Porter said the full-time-equivalent count, which takes place in mid-October, will yield a more concrete number. But, between last October's FTE-count and May 1999, the district lost 1,004 students -- from 36,326 to 35,322, according to school figures.
Friday's enrollment compared to Aug. 14 of last year, shows an increase of 2,564 students.
Schools that gained the most students compared to Aug. 14 of last year include T.W. Josey High school with 320. Glenn Hills High School had 130 students and Hains Elementary, 159 -- this increase includes enrollment of Levi White Elementary students, who are attending Hains this year as the two schools wait for a combined school building by 2001.
Butler and Hephzibah High school lost the most students during the same period. The loss, 549 from Butler and 391 from Hephzibah, was partly due to the opening this year of Cross Creek High school. The school was built to relieve overcrowding at the two south Augusta schools.
Joseph Lamar Elementary lost 137 students, East Augusta lost 79 students and Wilkinson Garden Elementary lost 75 students from last August to Friday.