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Marion County Public Schools are busting at the seams with more than 3,200 students this year, and while that is a positive sign for the district, it's making things a tad bit complicated for school administrators who are trying to find room for everyone.
For the first time ever, Lebanon Elementary School will exceed 400 students, and as a result, Principal Donna Royse was forced to ask the Board of Education for another kindergarten teacher last week. Her request was granted and the school will now begin taking steps to create a fourth kindergarten classroom.
Royse believes the increase in students at her school is a result of the current economy.
"More people are seeking public housing," she said.
Because of the influx of students, Royse not only has to begin the hiring process for a kindergarten teacher, but also create a brand new kindergarten classroom.
"It's going to require everything," she said. "Furniture, books... we are going to have to do it from scratch. To say I'll take a teacher, that's great. But there are so many other things that it entails."
Royse said the site-based decision making council meets this week and they will discuss plans on how they are going to rearrange things to accommodate another kindergarten classroom. But, more than likely, a teacher will be moved out of his or her classroom and he or she will have to move from one room to another so that a new kindergarten classroom can be created. She hopes that things will be in place after Labor Day, which is Sept. 7.
"But that might be wishful thinking," she said.
Lebanon Elementary School isn't the only school dealing with overcrowding issues, however. Every school in the district is basically maxed out, according to Judy Gaddie, director of pupil personnel.
"Until this year, we've been able to move students to other schools," she said. "The problem this year is that no one has any room."
For a school like Lebanon Elementary, creating another kindergarten classroom is sort of like buying a house and having to furnish it, Gaddie said.
"We have to have furniture, textbooks... whatever is needed to operate a classroom," she said.
Plus, the school will also have to rearrange its schedule, Gaddie said.
"There is a ripple effect to creating another classroom," she said. "That's one more classroom of kids that have to have P.E., art, library, etc., which has to be incorporated into the schedule."
As a whole, all of the elementary schools in the district have noticed an increase in students, Gaddie said.
"It seems like every day we have another influx of three or four more students at every elementary school," she said. "It's continuing to surprise me."
Gaddie said that she knows there are more students who are going to enroll, some who are currently out of the country.
With preschool beginning this week, those additional students put the district over 3,200 students, which is a first for Gaddie, who has been in her current position since 1995.
And while Marion County Superintendent Donald Smith is new to the district, the need for more room has been made abundantly clear, he said.
"We didn't pass the nickel tax... and we need room. I hear that everywhere I go," he said. "I'll start washing some cars maybe. I'll do my part... bake sales... soul food sales! Whatever we got to do for the kids of Marion County."
Opening day attendance totals CES 241 GES 379 WMES 440 LES 401 SCMS 336 LMS 368 MCHS 975* * Increased from 975 to 991 since opening day. Enrollment for the district Year Total enrollment 1999 3,008 2009 3,159* * Total enrollment as of Friday of last week.