Most of the nation's largest districts have begun to see enrollment declines in the last couple of years, but in Wake County, N.C., the numbers continue to climb. The numbers show that the student population increased from 2006-07 to 2007-08 by 3.95 percent. That's the greatest percentage increase for any district with more than 100,000 students.
In the 10 years from 1997 to 2007, Wake County added 44,000 students, surpassed 130,000 students, and became the largest school district in North Carolina. To help accommodate all those students, the district operates many campuses on year-round calendars. But most of the added capacity has come from new campuses. Between 2000 and 2009, Wake County has opened 48 new campuses: 29 elementary schools, nine middle schools, nine high schools and one special school.
This summer, the district opened three new elementary schools, all of which will operate on a multi-track year-round schedule: Banks Road, Herbert Akins Road and Lake Myra. In addition to those new campuses, several existing schools — Bugg Elementary, Lacy Elementary, Poe Elementary, Smith Elementary, Wendell Middle and Wake Forest Rolesville High — will move into improved or new facilities.
This fall, Wake County projects that it will reach a total enrollment of 140,000 students. The district has 102 elementary schools (42 on a year-round schedule), 30 middle schools (nine on a year-round schedule), 23 high schools, and four special schools. Administrators will have to operate those schools with fewer resources. Because of budget cuts, Wake County is receiving $35.1 million less in state funding. "Even as student enrollment increases to 140,000 students, the budget cuts mean that schools will have fewer teachers with fewer resources," the district says in a newsletter to the community. "Class sizes will be larger. Fewer elective courses will be offered."
Read the main story, "2009 AS&U 100," to learn more.