Thursday, September 15, 2016

Student enrollment at an all-time high

The secret is out!  Oconee County Schools (OCS), perennially ranked as one of the state of Georgia’s top school districts and increasingly mentioned as one of the nation’s best, is being discovered by families from all over the United States.  Parents and students are searching for and finding Oconee County Schools, which offers a world-class education with a small-town feel.  Nestled just fifteen minutes from the University of Georgia, and boasting a STEM-certified elementary school, a National School of Character, a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, and two high schools ranked in the top two percent of schools in America, Oconee County is quickly becoming an educational destination for families seeking an innovative education in a traditional down-home setting. 

As late as 2003, the total enrollment of Oconee County Schools did not reach 6,000 students (5,802), but as the year 2020 quickly approaches that enrollment is conservatively slated to peek at over 8,300 students.  Total enrollment grew over 1,000 students in a ten-year span from 2003-2013, roughly 500 students from 2013-2016, and is projected to grow 1,000 more students as we approach 2020.  Last year alone saw an increase of 4 percent at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, or nearly 300 new students.  Early student numbers in 2016-2017 reflect a similar growth of 3.5 percent, or over 250 students. Overall, student enrollment is up over 700 students (11 percent) from just three years ago—the equivalent of one school!  This trend is expected to continue and will undoubtedly strain the school district’s current facilities.

As students began the 2016-2017 school year, they found three of our ten schools at or over capacity—RBES, MBES, and OCHS.  By 2020, five of our ten schools will be at or over capacity, and by 2025 all ten of our schools will be at or over capacity—assuming nothing is done.  Earlier this year, however, the Oconee County Board of Education and system leaders demonstrated their recognition of the needed facility enhancements to address growth and adopted a new five-year facility plan.  This plan calls for the construction of a new elementary school and provides for additions at OCHS.  To fund these needed classrooms, the BOE passed a resolution to put an Educational Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) referendum on the November 8th ballot.  These additional classrooms should assist in meeting the needs of our students for years to come and easing the capacity concerns.  

Below is a chart of first-day student enrollment numbers for the last five years.   

Year
First-Day Enrollment
2012-2013
6594
2013-2014
6746
2014-2015
6995
2015-2016
7247
2016-2017
7576


As always, I am interested in your thoughts about this record student growth and the plan our school system has in place to meet our classroom needs.  Please email me your thoughts at jbranch@oconeeschools.org or speak to me in person when you see me in our schools. 

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