Gwinnett schools expect to see highest-ever enrollment in August

Students arrive for their first day of school at Jackson Elementary School in Gwinnett County on Aug. 26, 2020. The pandemic caused a drop in enrollment in Gwinnett County Public Schools that year, but the district expects to have its highest enrollment ever in the 2022-2023 school year. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Students arrive for their first day of school at Jackson Elementary School in Gwinnett County on Aug. 26, 2020. The pandemic caused a drop in enrollment in Gwinnett County Public Schools that year, but the district expects to have its highest enrollment ever in the 2022-2023 school year. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The pandemic caused a dip in the district’s growth

Georgia’s largest school district is expected have its highest ever enrollment next school year, with nearly 183,000 students.

Joe Heffron, Gwinnett County Public Schools’ chief financial officer, projected the student population would increase by 3,284 students. That would bring the district’s total enrollment to 182,865, the highest ever in Gwinnett, Heffron said.

Heffron discussed enrollment as part of a budget presentation to the school board Monday.

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Enrollment increased for years until the COVID-19 pandemic. District spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the number of students likely peaked at about 181,000 in the 2020-2021 school year.

“But then by the time we were in the next fiscal year, obviously we were in COVID and we dropped,” Roach said. The drop was 3,184 students.

Student population has a financial impact on the district. Heffron projected the enrollment increase would raise the state’s contribution to the district by $18.1 million.

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But the district plans to spend far more than that just on new jobs. The projected growth in the student body, along with the opening of Seckinger High School, require hiring more staff, Heffron said.

The district plans to spend $20.7 million on 233 new positions. And to reduce class sizes throughout all its schools, the district is hiring 182 teachers at the cost of $17.3 million.

There are also plans to hire 30 bus drivers to transport students to special programs during the school day and 18 career and college specialists.