County schools experience post-Katrina enrollment jump

By Trang Pham- Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - While enrollment is still down for most city school districts in south Mississippi, it's the opposite story for county school districts.

Consider these numbers.

Before Katrina, the enrollment in the Harrison County School District was 13,170 students. This year, that number jumped to 13,423.

In Hancock County, the pre-Katrina enrollment was 4,180 students. Today, it's 4,435.

Jackson County schools saw the biggest increase. The school district has gained more than 470 students since the storm.

When St. Martin East Elementary started the year, the school district took away three teachers, thinking the enrollment would not reach 600.

"They were expecting us to drop, because of changing the lines this year, about 75 students," said principal Judy Moore.

Instead, the school ended up with more students than last year.  The enrollment stands at 630 students and counting.

To accommodate the additional children, the school had to hire another second grade teacher. And this week, it created another third grade class.

"We have just hired a new teacher and she should start teaching students sometime this week," said principal Moore.

Other schools in the Jackson County School District are also seeing a lot more students these days.

"I was a little bit surprised with the amount of growth this year, it jumped more than we anticipated this year," said Jackson County superintendent, Dr. Barry Amacker.

"This year alone, we've had 170 students above last year's enrollment, it's spread out throughout the district, but the most significant growth has been in the St. Martin area," he said.

The superintendent says Katrina may be the reason behind the growth.  New apartments and subdivisions are still going up around the schools.

"It appears the population is shifting more to this area," said Dr. Amacker.

And if the enrollment continues to rise, in the next couple of years schools will have to make room to welcome the new faces.

"We're using every available space, we're getting creative," said the superintendent.

The superintendent says St. Martin North Elementary and the High School are also seeing a jump in enrollment this year.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.