Related story: Busy start for Gwinnett schools
Although Gwinnett is the 13th largest school district in the country, factor in that Hawaii has a statewide system, as does Puerto Rico, and perspective shows how daunting it is to have so many students under one jurisdiction.
“I don’t know if being the biggest is much of an advantage. It just means there’s more to do and more people to do it,” said Wilbanks. “Our mission is all the same — making sure kids are prepared for the next phase of their lives.”
As the largest school district in the state, its enrollment surpasses Cobb County, the second largest district, by nearly 70,000 students. With the opening of McClure Health Science High School last month, Gwinnett has 141 schools — 80 elementary, 29 middle, 23 high and nine specialty schools.
Gwinnett County voters approved a general obligation bond in November that will allot $350 million for the district to improve existing schools and move forward with plans for a new School of the Arts at Central Gwinnett High School. Another new school to progress past the drawing board is Seckinger High School, to come online in August 2022.
“It will give some relief to the Mill Creek Cluster,” said Wilbanks.
He pointed out that Gwinnett schools are divided into 19 clusters with about 6,000 to 13,000 students in each one. Long ago they may have been built around a single high school, but growth necessitates more structures, and post-graduation goals dictate that themes such as technology, health care and the arts become the focus of future facilities.
Gwinnett also has been identified as the most diverse school district in the state. Demographics show the ethnic breakdown is 32.1% Hispanic, 31.9% black, 21% white, 10.9% Asian and 4.1% multi-racial or other. Gwinnett’s student population is made up of 13% special education students, 14% gifted students and 19% English-language learners, and 56% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Another highlight is the growth of the dual-language immersion program. Gwinnett has seven schools that focus on Spanish: Annistown, Bethesda, Camp Creek, Baldwin, Ivy Creek, Meadowcreek and Level Creek elementaries; one — Trip Elementary, with a focus on French and, new this year, Parsons Elementary has the only Korean immersion program in the Southeast.
Wilbanks said the district is putting together plans for the next 10 years and encouraged the community to remain involved.
Public school education by the numbers
United States: 50.8 million
Average per pupil spending
United States: $13,440
United States: $680 billion
Georgia: $12.7 billion
Gwinnett: $2.319 billion
United States: 3.7 million
Source: Gwinnett County Public Schools