Manchester City Schools’ administration is keeping a careful eye on the local growth in residential housing and anticipates the upsurge to swing even higher in the coming years. This growth is welcomed by the schools, but will present a challenge to a system that is already affecting the at-capacity system.
“It’s a challenge rather than a problem,” said Director of Manchester Schools, Dr. Joey Vaughn. “The whole city is really growing. My enrolment is up 10%, which is huge.”
Vaughn said that each of the three schools in the system is at capacity. He said that housing development is hitting the elementary schools the hardest.
“It’s a really good thing that we are about to start a buildout at College St. (Elementary School). Adding those classrooms will help immediately.”
The buildout at College Street will add a kitchen and four classrooms. Construction is anticipated to start in the spring.
Vaughn cautioned, however, that the expansion at the school will only go so far. And he called for forward thinking.
“Are four classrooms enough? I think as a community, we have to look at what is this going to look like 10 years down the road. This growth is happening. It’s an exciting time for Manchester, Coffee County for all of us,” Vaughn said.
“If we don’t plan, somebody is going to plan for us because it is happening. We have to be prepared,” he added.
Vaughn said historically, MCS works to maintain an elementary student to school teacher ratio at or below 20:1. At Westwood Middle School, the number can safely climb to 25 students in a classroom.
This school year saw a large second grade class and the system was forced to have 24-25 students in those classes.
“All areas are still good as far as state mandates are concerned. We have tried to class sizes at 20 or under,” Vaughn said.
By the numbers, the system’s enrollment is up across the board. Westwood Middle School has 441 students in six through eighth grade, up 22 from last year.
“When you have a school that is at capacity; that number adds a teacher,” Vaughn said.
The system has 1,495 students enrolled. At the end of last year the system was at 1,323.
“Growth is a good thing. Manchester is a great place to raise a family. People are moving in. We just have to be ready as a school system,” Vaughn said. “This is an issue that the whole community will have to address.”