Despite increased population growth, Gwinnett County Schools enrollment hasn’t met the projection of surpassing 180,000 this year. AJC file photo

Gwinnett public schools enrollment inches upward

Despite census projections showing Gwinnett County as one of the fastest growing counties in the state, enrollment numbers in the school district have increased by less than 1 percent year over year.

In August, the school system was optimistic that it would surpass 180,000 students. Enrollment numbers had risen by more than 1,100 students following the district’s third count, which monitors each school’s projected attendance and compares it with actual attendance.

But the final tally for the first semester of the 2018-2019 school year shows Gwinnett County with 179,758 students — about one-third of a percent shy of the forecasted enrollment of 180,320.

“We will do our final count the Tuesday after Labor Day and expect we will be even closer to our projection by that time,” Gwinnett County Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said in August. “To illustrate the continued growth each week, this third count reflects 1,131 more students than our second count and 5,936 more than our first count held on Aug. 7.”

Enrollment projections are important to determine staffing needs as well as long-term construction of new schools or closing under-utilized facilities.

Paul Duke STEM High, the newest Gwinnett school, had an attendance of 614 students, nearly 200 less than anticipated.

The school system has a high school and a middle school scheduled to open in the Meadowcreek Cluster in 2019.

The yet-to-be-named high school, which is under construction at the intersection of Club Drive and Steve Reynolds Boulevard, is expected to be 300,000 square feet and accommodate 1,500 students.

School administrators have said that current overcrowding and projected increased enrollment make the schools a necessity.

The overall population in the county increased by 16,700 residents — the second-most people of any metro Atlanta community last year, pushing its total population over 900,000 for the first time, according to population estimates released in August. That represented more than 20 percent of the total population growth in the 10-county Atlanta region and trailed only Fulton County’s estimated boost of 17,570 residents.

Gwinnett’s total estimated population is now 910,700.

Gwinnett school officials couldn’t say why school enrollment isn’t increasing the way overall population is.

“Approximately one in five Gwinnett County residents are a student in our school system today … and that has been the case for a number of years,” Roach said. “Obviously, there are a number of factors that go into developing our projections and our Planning Department has a very strong history of consistently being very close to the mark. This is extremely

helpful as we calculate our need for teachers and other resources based on these numbers.”

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