Members of the Bryan County Schools staff said growth is the biggest issue facing the school system, according to a survey released during a school board meeting last week.
The survey generated more than 1,500 responses, according to Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher, who told the board he also wants input from the community.
Also ranking in the top-10 issues for staff members were facilities, technology, funding, human resources, classified workers, vocational education or CTAE, diversity, transportation and professional development.
“Each staff member was asked to submit what they thought were the top five challenges for Bryan County Schools over the next five years,” Brooksher said. “We compiled each of those responses and then ranked them based on which items were the most common.”
That growth would rate No. 1 should be no surprise. Because the system is widely thought to be one of the best in the area, it has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade — particularly as housing prices fell due to the recession.
In 2000, Bryan County’s student enrollment was 4,911, according to the Georgia County Guide. More than 8,000 are enrolled this school year.
That’s put a strain on school board budgets and classrooms as officials look to find ways to accommodate increasing enrollments.
Currently, the BoE is spending millions to build a larger Bryan County Elementary School and add a third elementary school in South Bryan.
Work on the replacement BCES and the new McAllister Elementary off Highway 144 is projected to begin early in 2014.
Growth has impacted the system in other ways as well. Richmond Hill High School’s numbers have swelled, moving its athletic teams from AAA to AAA to AAAAA.
With an enrollment of more than 1,800, the school was recently classified as AAAAAA as one of the state’s largest. And though it will be allowed to compete in AAAAA, it has led to conversations among officials of whether the school’s athletic facilities — particularly its football stadium — can accommodate enough fans to host later-round playoff games.
Had the Wildcats advanced beyond the third round in the state playoffs this season, the stadium would have had to seat a minimum of 4,000 — it seats 3,000 now, meaning the school would have had to either bring in temporary bleachers, find another place to play or go on the road.
In addition, what the system pays its coaches in supplements and its classified workers is also being looked at as Bryan County Schools looks to remain competitive with other systems.