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Web posted Sunday, August 07, 2011

Schools to scramble if classes are filled

By Donnie Fetter
News Editor, Twitter @DonnieFetter

Columbia County school officials busily prepared last week for the first day of school on Monday.

They likely will remain busy once school starts dealing with growth in many of the Grovetown schools, said Superintendent Charles Nagle.

Larger-than-expected pupil populations at Cedar Ridge, Euchee Creek, Grovetown and Baker Place Elementary schools and Grovetown Middle might create the need to transfer some teachers to accommodate that growth, Nagle said.

"If all the students who have registered show up, they're going to be over (population) projections," Nagle said. "It may take us a couple of days to move some teachers around, because we're not hiring."

In previous years, the school system maintained a contingency fund that could be used to hire additional teachers at the first of the school year if needed. During June budget meetings, though, the school board eliminated that $950,000 fund to save money in an overstretched budget.

Without the option to hire more teachers, Nagle said teacher transfers become necessary.

School system transportation also might add or change bus routes to meet needs at growing schools.

Bus drivers practiced their routes last week to familiarize themselves with the roads and traffic patterns, said school system Assistant Transportation Director Shirley Doolittle.

Doolittle expects that the traffic trouble spots for bus drivers will remain the Greenbrier and Lakeside school complexes. Each of those areas contain three schools -- elementary, middle and high -- that generate a lot of traffic from buses, and parent and teen motorists.

To avoid some of the traffic hassles in the afternoons, Doolittle said bus drivers intend to board pupils more quickly and depart before many of the high school students start their drives home.

Doolittle said transportation officials are unsure how the presence of the new Baker Place Elementary School might affect traffic in that area. Though it neighbors Grovetown High School, Doolittle said elementary schools end classes an hour later than high schools. Grovetown High traffic should be cleared by the time buses leave the elementary school, she said.

As school officials celebrated the opening of Baker Place Elementary on Thursday, construction continued at many high schools.

Heating and air-conditioning repairs were under way last week at Harlem High, but Nagle said he expected them to conclude on Friday.

However, work on auditorium and athletic field upgrades at Harlem, Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools are ongoing. Nagle said that work won't affect classrooms.

"We're prepared to work through the weekend grass-cutting, finishing up floors and moving furniture," Nagle said.

Also starting classes on Monday are Augusta Christian Schools and Augusta First Seventh-day Adventist. School starts Wednesday for Evans Christian Academy. Augusta Preparatory Day School opens on Aug. 22.

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