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School board talks enrollment, attendance zones
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The Bryan County Schools Board of Education continues to deal with an enrollment boom, even as it prepares to build two new schools.

The board discussed several related items at a recent work session. Although no votes were taken, many of the items are likely to be on the agenda for its March 22 regular meeting.

Superintendent Paul Brooksher said McAllister Elementary School in particular is growing faster than expected. He noted that the school opened with about 780 students in 2015 and is expected to have 1,500 students in two years.

One way to alleviate the problem is to lease a 10-classroom portable unit. It would cost the district $164,000 to do so for 24 months. New portables would have cost about $800,000.

Brooksher said another option is to remove some subdivisions from the school’s attendance zone temporarily and send those students to the elementary schools in town. He pointed to four developments — McAllister Pointe, Wexford Plantation, Watergrass and Magnolia Hill — where this could be done. They total about 415 lots, although no construction has begun on those sites.

“We also looked at possibly taking Dunham Marsh and the 144 spur out of the McAllister attendance zone for a few years, but when we weighed the pros and cons, there were a lot of cons,” he said.

Brooksher also told the board it would cost about $100,000 to refurbish several portable classroom buildings at Richmond Hill High School. Board members agreed that such a move would make more sense than buying new ones with a new high school slated to open in 2021.

The district recently closed on the acquisition of 209 acres near Richmond Hill Middle School where the new high school, a new elementary school and an operations center are to be built. The new elementary school is projected to open in 2019, and the operations center would housing transportation and maintenance departments. The land was given to the district by Rayonier.

Brooksher noted that eventually Bryan County Elementary School could be expanded at a cost of $1.3 million. Doing so would help alleviate overcrowding at Lanier Primary School.

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