Students are coming and they are staying, so much so that the Academy of Richmond County had the largest gain in enrollment of any school in Richmond, Columbia or Aiken counties.
"You can see the difference when you walk into the lunchroom and walk down the halls," Principal David Robbins said. "We're kind of in all the nooks and crannies."
Richmond Academy's student body grew by 246, putting its enrollment at 1,513. Mr. Robbins said the trend has been for enrollment to go down in the spring, but he doesn't expect it to drop as much as in years past.
More than 80 students chose to transfer to Richmond Academy when their zoned schools failed to meet federal academic standards under No Child Left Behind, he said. To handle some of the extra students, a room that had been used for storage was turned into a classroom.
The school also has one of the largest senior classes he has seen. Mr. Robbins said the 242 seniors are a sign that Richmond Academy is doing a better job keeping students in school.
School board member Ken Echols, chairman of the building committee, also attributed the growth to the success of Richmond Academy's International Baccalaureate program and transfers from private schools.
"It's a good sign that we are doing good things in the school system," Mr. Echols said.
ARC is the only school to gain more than 200 students this school year, but five others, Westside High, North Augusta High, Lewiston Elementary, Cross Creek High and Greenbrier High, each gained more than 100, according to school records.
Not all local schools grew this year. Some elementary schools in south Richmond County experienced significant losses in enrollment to accommodate the opening of new elementary schools.
Willis Foreman, Jamestown, Tobacco Road and Windsor Spring elementary schools lost more than 1,100 pupils among them as Richmond County opened Deer Chase and Diamond Lakes elementary schools.
Jamestown Principal Marion Furr said that it's always sad to see pupils leave but that their departures bring welcome relief to the school, which had been overcrowded.
Dr. Furr said the school had nine portable classrooms a year ago, but none this year. With 361 fewer pupils, no one has to go outside in "inclement" weather.
Mr. Echols said south Augusta is where the land is and where neighborhoods are being built. That is why the school board is also planning to build a new middle school in that area.
And with the additional residents an "economic boom" is likely to follow, he said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Augusta High..........140
Cross Creek High..........137
Willis Foreman Elementary..........363
Tobacco Road Elementary..........284
Windsor Spring Elementary..........100
Glenn Hills Middle..........89
Sources: Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties' school systems