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Sumner Schools continue to see steady growth

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Enrollment at Beech High School increased by 112 students over the last school year. TENA LEE

Newly released enrollment numbers show that the Sumner County school district increased by 330 students - the largest jump in three years - since the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

Currently 29,389 students are enrolled in Sumner County's 50 schools - up from 29,059 during this time last year.

The numbers are on par with the school system's 10-year average of enrolling around 300 additional students each year, according to Sumner County Schools Spokesperson Jeremy Johnson.

"We're seeing growth in the areas where we expected it," he said.

Two schools that saw the largest increases were Beech and Gallatin High schools. Beech, which just completed a $13 million renovation, saw 112 more students than last year. Gallatin High's enrollment increased by 89 students.

Johnson attributed both of the increases to the rezoning of some students who were previously zoned for Station Camp High School. Enacted by the Board of Education in February 2016, the rezoning took effect at the beginning of this school year in order to ease overcrowding at Station Camp High - a school that has seen a steady growth of about 100 students a year since it opened 15 years ago.

Station Camp High enrolled 1,553 students in 2014-15 school year. That number increased to 1,673 in 2015-16, and to 1,767 the following year. This year, however, the number dipped to 1,624 students.

"From what we're seeing and expecting, we're managing the growth through rezoning," said Johnson.

Additionally, several schools have undergone additions and expansions as part of a three-phase $69.5 million school building program approved in 2014. Four schools - Walton Ferry and Nannie Berry Elementary schools in Hendersonville, Gallatin's Station Camp Middle School and Watt Hardison Elementary School in Portland - are currently undergoing expansions as part of the third phase of that program.

Several elementary schools saw enrollment dips following the opening of Dr. William Burrus Elementary School at Drakes Creek School in January 2016.

However, Jack Anderson Elementary, which also recently underwent an expansion, increased its enrollment by 56 students - up 800 to 856 from the previous year. Additionally, Madison Creek Elementary School added 51 students this year - up 679 students from 628. Nine-year-old Station Camp Elementary welcomed 76 new students this year.

Johnson said the school system is tracking the numbers to keep planning for growth - either through more rezonings or new school facilities.

The Sumner County Commission purchased 265 acres on Upper Station Camp Creek Road about a mile north of Long Hollow Pike for a K-12, three-school campus. According to Johnson no decisions have been made yet as to what will be built first, an elementary, middle or high school.

One school that has seen an increase not necessarily related to growth is E.B. Wilson, the district's virtual school.

Designed for students who may struggle in a traditional school setting, the school allows students to take classes online.

Formerly a night school, the school averaged an attendance of around 40 students between 2004 and 2014. During this school year 120 students are enrolled in the school - up 45 students from last year.

Johnson said the increase is the result of a concentrated effort by the district to identify students who would benefit from a different educational opportunity.

"We've made a real effort to not let kids drop out," he said.

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