Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Oconee County Schools Began The School Year With Fewer Students Than Last Year

***All 12 Schools Under Capacity***

Oconee County Schools experienced a slight drop in enrollments as the school year began, according to a report given the Board of Education at its work session on Monday.

Enrollment growth has been moderate for the last five years, according to the counts from the fourth Wednesday of the new school year.

All 12 schools in the Oconee County Schools system are operating under capacity, with the average gap between capacity and enrollment in the 12 schools of 189.1.

The new Dove Creek Middle School has only 486 in attendance, while Malcom Bridge Middle School has 576 students and Oconee County Middle School has 896. All three schools have a capacity of 1,000.

North Oconee High School had 1,479 students in attendance on Aug. 23 and Oconee County High School had 1,315. Both schools have a capacity of 1,500.

At the meeting on Monday, Chief Academic Officer Susan Stancil reminded the Board of the Sept. 19 Community Engagement Session to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Oconee County Civic Center.

School Superintendent Jason Branch said back in January that he planned to raise the question of adding a new high school to the system at that session.

Enrollment Growth

Oconee County School administration each year gives the School Board an enrollment count from the fourth week of the school session.

From LeDuff Presentation 9/11/2023

Dallas LeDuff, Associate Superintendent of Oconee County Schools, introduced the report to the Board on Monday by saying the 8,456 students enrolled the system on Aug. 23 represents “a 56 percent increase in total enrollment since 2010.”

He next reported to the Board on the enrollment at each of the schools, noting the capacity at each.

LeDuff told the Board that while the enrollment at Malcom Bridge Elementary School at present is 574 and the capacity is 600, that capacity figure will increase to 750 when the 12-classroom addition at that school is completed for the next school year.

LeDuff next presented the student counts on the fourth Wednesday of each school year going back to the 2013-2014 school year.

The charts show the enrollments growing rather steadily from 6,732 students in that first year of 2013-14 to 7,976 in 2018-19. Growth was greater than 200 students across each of those six years.

Growth from 2018-19 to 2019-20 fell to 123 students, and growth from 2019-20 to 2020-2021 was 61 students.

In the last three years, growth was 201 students, 101 students, and a loss of six students this year.

Planning For Growth

“I want to point out that you'll see a slight reprieve in total enrollment for this year compared to last year on this slide,” LeDuff told the Board.

“But based on that 56 percent growth in enrollment since 2010,” he continued, “we would anticipate that reprieve to be short-lived, and staff is going to continue to monitor that trend and plan for the growth that we've seen over the last 15 years or so.”

The lack of growth was surprising given that the Board changed its policy this year to allow employees of the system to enroll their children in Oconee County Schools regardless of where the employee lives.

In the past, employees had to pay tuition for students living outside Oconee County.

LeDuff did not make any mention of how many employees have taken advantage of this opportunity or the number of students involved.

No member of the Board asked LeDuff about any aspect of his enrollment report.

School systems in the state are required to report official enrollment figures for the first of October and again in March.

On Oct. 4 of last year, Oconee County Schools reported 8,531 enrolled students, and on March 2 it reported 8,517 students.

Both figure are slightly higher than the 8,462 students reported by LeDuff on Monday for the beginning of last school year.

Strategic Planning Session

Superintendent Branch mentioned the Sept. 19 community session in his report to the Board on Monday, saying that more than 400 people had registered to attend and “we hope to have even more than that.”

From LeDuff Presentation 9/11/2023

“It is imperative as we go forward and plan for the future that we understand what it is the community seeks in our schools and where we can improve going forward,” he said.

Chief Academic Officer Stancil followed Branch and said “we are very excited about our upcoming Community Engagement Session.”

She said the session is an “opportunity to gain valuable feedback from our parents, community members, staff, and even students who will be attending.”

The session is part of ongoing strategic planning, Stancil said, that will terminate with Board approval of a new plan in June of next year.

Neither Branch nor Stancil gave any indication of what topics participants in the community session will be asked to address.

At the retreat in January, Branch and LeDuff told the Board that they planned to use the community session to get input on whether to add a third high school or expand the two existing high schools to a capacity of 2,000 students each.

School Security

Superintendent LeDuff reported that Oconee County Schools has been awarded a Safer Georgia Schools Grant from the Georgia Department of Education “to enhance our safety and security measures” in the schools.

The total grant award was $250,000, LeDuff said, but some of that money will be shared with private schools in the county.

Oconee County Schools will use its share of the money to purchase additional access controls and surveillance cameras for its schools, LeDuff said.

LeDuff also told the Board that “we have completed intruder alert drills at all 12 of our schools."

LeDuff said this puts Oconee County Schools in compliance with the Georgia Schools Safe Act passed by the legislature and signed into law in April.

Oconee County Schools has had these drills in place in the past, and the law did not require any change on the part of the schools, LeDuff said.

Other Updates

At the Monday meeting, Chief Human Resources Officer Justin Cofer told the Board that he is actively recruiting employees from within the system “by offering the opportunity for dual employment to our certified and classified staff.”

Instructional Support Center Photo From Operations Report

“For example, he said, “a current paraprofessional with Oconee County Schools could become trained as a bus driver and fulfill both roles while earning additional income.”

“This also allows our bus drivers to join the staff of one of our 12 schools while maintaining their role as a driver,” he said.

Cofer had told the Board of problems in hiring, particularly for maintenance and as bus drivers, at its meeting in July.

Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities, told the Board that “we're making a really good progress inside and out” at the construction site for the classroom additions at Malcom Bridge Elementary School.

Work on the tennis court light at the two high schools also is progressing, and “we're expecting to see some of the light poles standing by the end of the month.”

“They’re going to pour the concrete decks next week” for the Instructional Support Center on north Main Street in Watkinsville, Ricketson said. The steel frame already is in place.

Action Items

Staff members informed the Board that several items will be on the Sept. 18 agenda for their action.

Ricketson presented the Fiscal Year 2025 Capital Outlay Project Application for $526,216 in state funding for renovations and modifications of Rocky Branch Elementary School.

The total estimated cost of the project is $3.5 million. Back in 2019, the estimated cost of the work was $1.5 million, and in 2022 that figure was $2.7 million.

Cofer told the Board that the Superintendent is recommending the Board issue a contract for an unspecified amount with ESS, an education employment service group, that would help with for staffing services.

Ryan White, Chief Technology Officer, told the Board the superintendent is recommending the Board approve a bid from Audio Visual Innovations of $54,304 for 128 projectors as part of a replacement cycle.

Suzanne Korngold, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, is recommending that the Board approve a $440,324 fixed price contract with the Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA).

RESA will provide student instruction and support services in vision and hearing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, orientation and mobility, speech and language therapy for students with hearing impairments and audiology as required by the Individual Education Plans of the student.


The video below is on the YouTube Channel of Oconee County Schools.

Stancil began her comments at 5:27 in the video.

LeDuff began his report to the Board at 12:25 in the video.

1 comment:

Retired teacher Lawrence said...

Awesome! Six fewer students could mean another pay increase for the most-deserved administrator!
-David Lawrence