PELL CITY — Enrollment at Williams Intermediate School in Pell City increased by roughly 87 students this fall, eclipsing the five-student increase from the 2018-19 academic year, Superintendent Dr. James Martin said during a recent Board of Education meeting.
That rise in enrollment makes up a large part of the overall student growth in Pell City Schools, with the entire system growing by 172 students since last year. That’s comparable to the enrollment increase of 165 students systemwide at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year.
More students means more teachers at Williams and more money for the system overall.
Christa Bryant, the coordinator of federal programs for Pell City Schools, says Williams is at the heart of the uptick, with the rest of the system experiencing slight increases.
“We have seen the greatest growth in fifth grade,” she said.
Bryant explained that part of this increase was not completely unexpected. The school system had a large fourth-grade group moving to fifth grade this year. This was a trend the school system had observed in previous years with this particular group of students.
Martin said new home construction in the area also likely contributed to the growth.
“When new families move to town, they always seem to have a fifth-grader” he said.
To deal with the growth, the school board voted to add an additional teacher to Williams at the beginning of the academic year. Now Martin has suggested the board amend the budget and hire yet another new teacher for the middle of this school year.
“We need to do the right thing the right way,” he said, “We need to make sure students get the education they deserve.”
The larger enrollment could also lead to an increase in state funding as well. Every academic year, school systems must produce a count 20 days after Labor Day that determines per-pupil funding from the state for the following year. Bryant said the number of students enrolled before the count could affect funding.
This would likely not include all the students, as numbers continue to rise. Martin points out that in only the last two months, 10 students have enrolled in Williams Intermediate. Also important to note is that, while Williams Intermediate has the highest single enrollment increase, other schools are also growing.
Since last year, Coosa Valley and Eden elementary schools have seen increases of 41 and 67 students, respectively. While this growth does not require the additional teachers needed at Williams, it is likely to affect funding systemwide next year.
Martin also said growth like this is not completely out of the ordinary.
“Growth comes in waves,” he said, “and we just happen to be in the middle of one of those waves.”