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Schools: District hopes to stop slide in enrollment

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County schools expect an increase in enrollment this year. If those expectations are borne out, it will be the second year the district has bucked steady decline in the number of students.

“Everyone has reported that their enrollments are up greatly,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

He will be happy if the district stays level with last year.

Dozier got a head count once school began Wednesday. Numbers were up at the four Waccamaw Neck schools, some rural schools reported lower numbers, but Dozier said that the numbers aren’t wholly reliable because some parents will continue to register students for the next couple of weeks.

“Monday will be more accurate,” Dozier said. “Sometimes the numbers don’t balance out until after Labor Day.”

For example, Waccamaw Intermediate School in Pawleys Island typically grows 10 percent a year. This year, it sent 220 rising seventh-graders to Waccamaw Middle and took in 150 rising fourth-grader from Waccamaw Elementary. “We picked up 35 or 40 over the summer,” principal Tim Carnahan said.

He initially thought enrollment would be level with last year. Instead, it was up, Dozier said.

The district receives state funds based on the number of students enrolled. Last year was only the second time in 10 years the district had an increase in enrollment. That was due to the opening of Coastal Montessori Charter School, which is sponsored by the district. This year, the charter school added another upper-elementary class for grades four through six, raising its enrollment to 163 from 146.

“We did three population studies last year that said numbers would continue to go down,” Dozier said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to turn that around. It has a lot to do with the economy and jobs.”

The county lost residents from 2000 to 2010 in the age groups that typically start and raise families.

“I would be happy if we’re at or up a little” from last year, Dozier said.

Where the numbers are up the district will add teachers to maintain small class sizes. Whether those will be new hires or transfers from schools where the numbers are off won’t be known for a couple of weeks, he said.

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