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Clayton school enrollment on target

By Greg Gelpi

Enrollment in Clayton County schools is up from last year and could surpass a June projection for enrollment.

At the seven-day mark of class, the Clayton County school system reported an enrollment of 50,606 students, which is up 940 students from the same time last year.

At a June meeting of the Facilities Committee of the Clayton County Board of Education, the school system projected an enrollment of 51,617 for this school year. Charles White, a school system spokesman, said that projection has risen to 51,690.

Enrollment figures typically don't "stabilize" until sometime after Labor Day, said Brian Miller, the school system's director of facility auxiliary services. Enrollment numbers fluctuate, and the school system continues to register students throughout the year.

"We did not anticipate opening the school year with 51,000," White said. "Some school systems open with all of their students on the first day. In Clayton County, it doesn't happen that way."

The school system still projects an increase of 1,200 to 1,400 students each year. At day seven last year, the school system had 49,666 students, which continued to climb until Labor Day and then fell off throughout the year. The system ended the year with 49,952 students.

White called this year's enrollment a "substantial increase" from last year.

The school system continues to grow, despite the effects of political infighting and a yearlong probation.

Politics have driven students from Clayton County to surrounding counties like Henry, said Julius Ross, Henry County's chief planner for long range planning.

"You know Clayton County has gotten a bad report with the politics of its school system," Ross said, explaining his thoughts were not based on statistical data. "We know that a lot of people move because of the quality of the education system."

The Henry County school system, part of the third fastest growing county in the country, reported 31,800 students as of Wednesday and projects 32,215 students by December, said Cindy Foster, a spokeswoman with the Henry County school system. Students are "streaming" in. Last year, Henry schools had 29,401 students at this point.

Henry County grew by 9,900 residents in 2003 and is expected to double in the next 15 to 20 years, Ross said. The county is projected to have 300,000 residents by 2025.

The Fayette County school system averages an additional 500 students each year, said Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, a spokeswoman with the school system. As of Tuesday, Fayette County schools had 21,597, up from last year's 21,215.

"Oh, we're growing," Berry-Dreisbach said. "This is a growing county."

The Clayton County school system is projected to continue growing and is projected to be 55,808 students for the 2007 n 2008 school year.