Bradley County Schools saw an increase of 142 students over this time last year in grades K-12, bringing the system’s preliminary total to 10,193, according to Sammie Humphrey, administrative assistant to Johnny McDaniel, county schools director.
Preliminary numbers show the increase is mostly at the middle and high school levels.
“Ocoee Middle School (1,255) and Walker Valley High School (1,575) are both experiencing their largest enrollment in their schools’ histories,” Humphrey said.
This is compared to 1,240 at Ocoee and 1,540 at Walker Valley this time last year.
Ocoee and Lake Forest middle schools’ student populations are higher than the state-recommended size. Lake Forest saw an increase from 1,120 students to 1,137. Bradley Central High School grew from 1,650 to 1,689 students.
School capacity at Walker Valley High School has been a much-discussed topic in the past two years, as student population has grown to exceed the optimal number the school was designed for. The Bradley County Board of Education is currently pursuing a federal hazard mitigation grant to partially fund an addition to the school.
“The increase at the secondary level has occurred simultaneously with an increase and change in graduation requirements, and subsequently a greater demand in our core subjects,” Humphrey said. “Meeting these needs has been a daunting challenge for our secondary schools.”
As more schools in the county system are operating at or near capacity, support staff such as counselors, school nurses and school resource officers are having to give up office space. Many of these personnel are using converted storage space as their offices.
“The academic team, including principals, has done a tremendous job in utilizing space in our schools to provide learning opportunities for students,” McDaniel said in a media statement.
Student population at the elementary level has remained about the same, according to Humphrey.
Past increases in enrollment have necessitated many preschool classes be offered at alternative locations. This school year the preschool program offered at Park View Elementary joined that list. Park View had originally been built to allow a little room for growth at the elementary level. However, this space was soon filled when Blue Springs Elementary was closed. Park View is now operating at capacity for the number of students it can serve. The system currently has 282 children in prekindergarten classes.
Preschool students are not included in the 10,193 enrollment number. When these students, in addition to those served through Reach Adult High School and the Bradley County Adult Education program are added, the system serves a total of 10,718, according to the school system.
There are 30 students enrolled at Reach Adult High School and 213 students in the Bradley County Adult Education program.
Enrollment numbers are often in flux and are finalized by the state.