When doors opened this school year, the Richmond County Board of Education discovered a pleasant surprise: Enrollment is up.
Systemwide, 35,039 pupils, 553 more than the expected 34,486, enrolled in Richmond County schools.
School planners have predicted enrollment in Richmond County schools would drop about 250 pupils per year for the next five years.
Not all of the 55 schools gained pupils.
Roy Rollins Elementary School is down 86 pupils from the projected enrollment of 494 children. Hornsby Elementary is down by 118 children, while Blythe Elementary has 66 more pupils than school officials projected.
Cross Creek High School is the only high school to show a significant gain, with 85 more pupils than the projected 1,248. Similarly, Sego Middle School showed an 84-pupil increase over enrollment projections.
Gene Sullivan, the deputy superintendent of schools, said several portable classrooms had to be moved to Blythe to accommodate the overflow. Making the overcrowding worse, school officials said, is a new law reducing class size.
"But it's good news that more students are coming to Richmond County," Mr. Sullivan said.
By opening four new elementary schools this fall, school officials hoped to reduce the number of pupils using portable classrooms by 50 percent. Last year, 244 pupils used portable classrooms, and school officials said only 140 would use them this year.
But the influx of pupils changed that, and 180 pupils are currently using portables in Richmond County.
Still, school officials are optimistic they can virtually do away with portables by 2003.
Next year, Fort Gordon Elementary School is expected to open, and within two to three years as many as three new elementary schools could open in South Augusta, pending the approval of Phase II of the Richmond County school improvement program. Richmond County residents will vote to approve the plan in November.