November 24, 2012

Lexington 1 near becoming No. 2 in area school enrollment

Steady growth is putting Lexington 1 on the verge of having the second-largest enrollment among Midlands schools.

Steady growth is putting Lexington 1 on the verge of having the second-largest enrollment among Midlands schools.

It trails Richland 1 by 35 students in this fall’s count of students in classrooms.

But both districts are well behind Richland 2, the area’s largest.

Lexington 1 and Richland 2 remain the boom areas, as the other six districts report minor fluctuations.

Richland 2 added nearly 600 students while Lexington 1 went up slightly more than 500.

Strong academic performance makes the pair popular, particularly with newcomers.

In addition, the in-town resort lifestyle at Lake Murray adds to the allure of Lexington 1, officials say.

Officials in Lexington 1 and Richland 2 expect yearly enrollment increases that equal the size of an elementary school to continue indefinitely.

“I don’t see it abating,” Richland 2 school board vice chair Susan Brill said. “That’s the reality we have to deal with.”

No plans to add more classrooms in either are imminent, with expansions in each under way thought adequate to handle the influx for a few more years, officials say.

But building more facilities is inevitable to keep pace with steady development, officials say.

“At the rate we’re growing, you have to expect that,” said Lexington 1 school board chair Cindy Smith

Ideas to expand use of existing classrooms through year-round instruction and double shifts aren’t popular with families, Brill and Smith said.

Lexington 1 extends over nearly half the 720-square-mile county with classrooms in Gilbert, Lexington, Oak Grove, Pelion and Red Bank.

Richland 2 includes schools in Blythewood, Dentsville, Arcadia Lakes, Lake Carolina, Pontiac and Spring Valley.

Officials in other districts foresee smaller gains in enrollment soon.

“We expect to pick up the pace,” said Lexington-Richland 5 spokesman Mark Bounds, whose district includes classrooms in Chapin, Dutch Fork, Harbison, Irmo and St. Andrews. “But we don’t ever expect to see the kind of expansion those two have.”

Enrollment in kindergarten and elementary grades is starting to grow in Lexington 2 classrooms in Cayce, Oak Grove, Pine Ridge, South Congaree, Springdale and West Columbia.

“You go through dips and peaks,” assistant superintendent Jim Hinton said. “Signs are we are at the start of getting a little larger.”

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