Smith Says School Officials Struggling To Keep Up With VW-Inspired Growth

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hamilton County School Supt. Rick Smith, in his annual "State of the Schools" speech, said school officials are struggling to keep up with rampant growth in the eastern part of the county brought on largely by the huge new Volkswagen plant.

He said the county welcomes the plant, "but it has brought some challenges."

He said he got a recent report from the Regional Planning Agency showing up to 600 approved residential lots in the vicinity of the Enterprise South Industrial Park. "That makes me a little nervous," he said.

Mr. Smith said new elementary schools for Ooltewah and East Brainerd will open near capacity, but he said it was determined not to build them with more than 1,100 students.

He said a rezoning plan to help avert East Hamilton School from topping 2,100 students has worked. He said this year the 9-12 was up by one student and the midddle school was down 122 students.

Mr. Smith said, "Hopefully, we will see even more relief next year. But that's not to say it is going to hold very long."

He told PTA members that the schools are required to keep up with increasingly strict achievement standards. He said the county schools will be required to do better by three percent on achievement this year "and we can reach that goal." But he said it will be more challenging to improve scores by 6.25 percent for minority, ESOL and students with disabilities.

He said a Data Dashboard program is giving teachers better access to student data. He said a student can switch from one school to another "and the teacher can have his records the next day. It used to take weeks."

Mr. Smith said the new STEM school is important, but he said he won't back off support for the magnet schools.

He said he does not favor school voucher programs. 

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