Cherokee schools report some easing of crowding

The new Dean Rusk Middle School opened in Canton earlier this month, easing some of the worst overcrowding in the Cherokee County School District – and helping the district achieve its fourth consecutive year without a “critically overcrowded” school.

Monday, the fast-growing district issued its 2016-17 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing. A school is considered critically overcrowded if it exceeds 140 percent of capacity, district officials said in the report.

Had it not been for portable classrooms, 11 schools would be at 100 percent or greater capacity, officials said – though there still may be crowding in media centers, gyms, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways. An Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, adopted in 2001 and extended twice by voters, has generated funds for construction and growth.

Rusk School, built to replace an existing school of the same name, has a capacity of 1,600 students, 400 more than the old campus. It takes in grades 6 -8, with sixth-grade classes moving from four feeder elementary schools, giving them relief. Also, space in the old Rusk will provide additional capacity for Sequoyah High.

The district last week reported 41,769 students enrolled on its 20th day of school, 600 more than last year’s enrollment at this time and exceeding the district’s projected peak enrollment by 42 students. Cherokee schools have grown by more than 4,500 students since the 2008-09 school year.