Enrollment for the Cherokee County School District has increased beyond expectations, but, for the ninth consecutive year, no schools are considered “critically overcrowded.”
The annual Inventory of School Housing report, which is developed based on the 20-day enrollment count (Aug. 27) of 41,901 and is posted below, shows the impact of sustained enrollment growth and highlights where additional classroom space soon will be needed.
The fact that increased enrollment did not lead to critical overcrowding “reflects long-standing successful management practices and School Board Policies governing student enrollment growth forecasts, school construction project planning and student attendance area decisions,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.
CCSD defines “critically overcrowded” as when a school exceeds 140% of its enrollment capacity and meets other criteria, including use of all existing portable classrooms. This evaluation occurs annually after the 20th day of classes, which is when attendance traditionally peaks.
If portable classrooms were not available, six schools would be operating at 100% or more of their capacity: Free Home ES, Creekland MS, E.T. Booth MS, Teasley MS, Creekview HS and Woodstock HS. While portable classrooms provide relief for classroom instruction, they don’t alleviate overcrowding in media centers, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways, nor do they resolve shortages in critical resources such as lockers, parking and recess and playground areas.
Since 2001, CCSD has worked to prevent “critical overcrowding” through an aggressive, multi-tiered Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Ed SPLOST) plan proposed by a Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders and approved by the School Board for inclusion on a local ballot referendum. This plan to “bond” future sales tax revenue, which has been extended three times by voters, continues today with new construction, strategic land acquisition, facility renovations, and the purchase of replacement school buses and emerging technologies for students and staff.
The existing 1% Ed SPLOST will be up for renewal in November and, if successfully renewed, current overcrowding and capacity issues will be alleviated through construction, over the next five-year period, of projects including the previously announced replacement Cherokee HS and replacement Free Home ES, as well as construction of classroom additions at Creekland MS and Creekview HS and construction of second gyms at Creekview HS and River Ridge HS.
Ed SPLOST proceeds also are used to fund the continued retirement of bond debt from the past 20 years of construction, renovation and capital purchases to keep up with enrollment growth. Without the Ed SPLOST, the property tax rate would increase in order to fulfill this obligation. The Ed SPLOST allows for the cost of growth to be shared by visitors and residents alike based on purchases instead of through a property tax increase.