School systems count how many students they have twice a year, once in October and once in March. Student counts serve as a loose measure of overall population growth, but are critical in that state funding to local school systems is measured by the number of students in each district.
“A school district initially receives funding for the school year based on the October count, and then that amount is adjusted depending on whether the March count went up or down,” said Cobb schools spokesman Jay Dillon. “Usually, school enrollment growth is a strong indicator that the population of Cobb County is growing overall, which is a positive economic sign.”
Cobb schools, the second-largest school district in Georgia, increased from 108,262 students in March 2013 to 109,760 students in March of this year, a jump of 1,498, or 1.3 percent. Marietta’s enrollment jumped from 8,401 to 8,781, an increase of 380 students, or 4.5 percent. Overall, close to 1,900 more students attend a public school in Cobb County this year than last year.
Representatives from both school systems said the growth is a good sign.
“We grew, No. 1, because of the economy,” said Emily Lembeck, superintendent of Marietta City Schools.
Cobb school board chair Kathleen Angelucci agreed.
“In the last four years, our enrollment has gone up about 1,000 students,” Angelucci said. “I would say our growth was unusual (because of the recession) and it was also significant.”
Marietta City Schools
Looking at the last six years, Marietta schools have grown by more than 1,000 students as well. At the March 2008 count, the district had 7,735 students, 1,046 less than it has now. The district has grown by 13.5 percent over that time period.
Most of the growth has been in the city’s elementary schools.
Lembeck said she doesn’t see the need for any new schools right now, but more classrooms might be added to existing schools in the next few years.
“Previously, many parents would consider private school, but some of them are now making the decision to opt for the quality public education their children can receive in Marietta schools,” Lembeck said. “In some cases, that’s because they could opt for a choice placement in a school other than a school they were zoned for. If you look at our vision, it’s to be the school system of choice.”
She said the school system has added new teachers each of the last four years and will probably add more next year. Lembeck added that if trailers are used as classrooms it will only be on a short-term basis until permanent additions can be made.
CCSD looking at construction
Unlike its smaller counterpart, Cobb schools are looking at new construction.
Two east Cobb elementary schools, Brumby and Mountain View, are going to be replaced with brand-new ones as part of an education sales tax approved by voters. But Angelucci said she hopes for a third new primary school.
Mableton’s Harmony-Leland Elementary School, built in 1951, is tied with Powers Ferry Elementary as the oldest in the entire county. Harmony-Leland leaders and David Morgan, the school board representative from the area, have been pushing hard for a new school that would also replace nearby Clay Elementary. The schools sit less than a mile from each other.
“When they gave us the list the board felt strongly we wanted to do a combined Harmon-Leland/Clay, but we could only choose two,” said Angelucci. “We are trying to find a way to do that.”
Because only two new schools were on the SPLOST list, no sales tax dollars can go toward replacing any other schools.
Angelucci also pointed out that the growth isn’t spread across all of Cobb. East Cobb in particular is growing fast, while other areas have actually lost population.
“Growth is always good to me, but when we’re talking about schools, in some of our areas enrollment is down,” she said. “Some high schools, including both in my post (Kell and Sprayberry) are under capacity.”
Angelucci cited Walton High School, another east Cobb building, as a high school that’s over capacity. Thanks to an increased budget, the school district is looking to hire up to 200 new teachers for next school year.
School enrollment by the numbers Cobb County Schools
March 2013 enrollment: 108,262
March 2014 enrollment: 109,760; Up 1,498 or 1.3 percent
Marietta City Schools March 2013 enrollment: 8,401
March 2014 enrollment: 8,781; Up 380 or 4.5 percent.
Individual schools over/under capacity: High schools
Kell: Capacity is 1,912; enrollment is 1538 or 374 under
Harrison: Capacity is 2,587; enrollment is 1958 or 629 under
South Cobb: Capacity is 2612. Enrollment is 1,998 or 614 under
Hillgrove: Capacity is 1912; enrollment is 2,177 or 265 over
Pebblebrook: Capacity is 1862. Enrollment is 2148, or 286 over
Walton: Capacity is 2,362; enrollment is 2732 or 370 over
Tapp: Capacity is 1,023; enrollment is 809 or 214 under
McCleskey: Capacity is 843; enrollment is 703 or 140 under
East Cobb: Capacity is 1,091; enrollment is 1,281 or 190 over
Lovinggood: Capacity is 1,046; enrollment is 1,392, or 346 over
Lewis: Capacity is 1,040; enrollment is 724 or 316 under
Pickett’s Mill: Capacity is 990; enrollment is 720 or 270 under
Vaughan: Capacity is 1,037; enrollment is 617, or 420 under
Brumby: Capacity is 751; enrollment is 1,033 or 282 over
Harmony-Leland: Capacity is 478; enrollment is 683 or 205 over
Teasley: Capacity is 456; enrollment is 733 or 277 over