Report: Some schools above capacity, none critical
by Michelle Babcock
September 05, 2013 12:32 AM | 1739 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the first time in 15 years, none of Cherokee County’s schools are “critically overcrowded,” although nine are operating at more than 100 percent capacity, according to the annual Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing report released Tuesday.

Critically overcrowded is defined as “a school that exceeds 140 percent of its enrollment capacity and meets other criteria, including use of all existing portable classrooms.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said Tuesday that the 2013-14 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing reflected a milestone of success.

“This achievement is a reflection of the school district’s long-standing successful policies governing student enrollment growth forecasts and planning school construction projects to accommodate growth and is a tribute to the leadership and foresight of the School Board,” Petruzielo said. “The school district’s efforts to eliminate ‘critical overcrowding’ began in 2001, with an aggressive, multi-tiered Education (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax plan proposed by a Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders.”

Schools operating at or above 100 percent capacity after existing portables are factored in, based on 20-day enrollment figures, are: Free Home Elementary at 108 percent; Little River Elementary at 117 percent; Creekland Middle at 109 percent; E.T. Booth Middle at 100 percent;

Freedom Middle at 102 percent; Mill Creek Middle at 103 percent; Cherokee High at 101 percent; Etowah High at 100 percent; and Woodstock High at 105 percent.

Petruzielo said in the annual report released Tuesday that while portable classrooms help relieve classroom instruction, they “do not alleviate overcrowding in media centers, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways.”

“The new/replacement E.T. Booth Middle School, which opened its doors for this school year, not only alleviated ‘critical overcrowding’ there, but also will reduce crowding at neighboring Etowah High School, which will use the former Chapman Intermediate School facility as an annex for its campus,” Petruzielo said.

The replacement E.T. Booth, along with the replacement Teasley Middle School that is on schedule to open for the 2014-15 school year, as well as renovations underway throughout the district, are funded by Education SPLOST revenue “thanks to the ongoing support of the community’s voters,” Petruzielo said.

“The new/replacement Teasley Middle School … will provide the same relief to the current campus,” Petruzielo said. “And to ACE Academy, which will relocate to the former Teasley Middle School campus as part of the transition.”

Handling the growth

Of the nine schools operating above capacity, Little River Elementary School is the only one operating above 110 percent capacity, at 117 percent. It does not use portable classrooms.

Christian Kirby, principal of Little River Elementary, said Tuesday that the school had about 65 more students enroll than originally projected.

“We have noticed the growth. However, we’ve been able to handle the growth appropriately. We have not had to do anything radical or fanatical to meet the needs, fortunately,” Kirby said. “Little River is a big structure, so we’ve been able to handle growth accordingly.”

Kirby said the area around Little River is “really booming.” He said that the area has experienced some of the biggest growth in the county, but said the school hasn’t had to make any drastic changes.

Although class size varies depending on the grade-level, Kirby said the average size for fourth- and fifth-grade classes is about 33 to 34 students, which is just under the allowed maximum of 35 students.

“Class sizes are large, but you’re going to find that countywide,” Kirby said. “Obviously, with our classes that are a little bit larger, we try to put those in rooms that are large enough to meet the needs.”

Kirby said he is working with district officials to come up with possible solutions.

“Our district does an incredible job of working with the principals, (district officials) are very aware of what’s going on in my neck of the woods, and we have constant communication regarding trouble-shooting possibilities and looking at things for the future,” Kirby said. “We’ve looked at the possibility of rezoning next year, just some minor tweaking not anything that would be drastic. But some ways to possibly curtail some of the growth for (this area).”

Kirby said that since the Little River cafeteria feeds children at the pre-K next-door, he works in conjunction with the principal and there is space that the elementary school could use “if growth continues.”

“If need be, there’s some open rooms in (the pre-K) where we can utilize space,” Kirby said. “I can honestly say that Cherokee County is very, very proactive in making sure that there aren’t issues for the students. While our class sizes are bigger than what most parents would like, and bigger than what most educators would like, the fact is that it’s still manageable at this point.”

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