School enrollment swells to new heights

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Suffolk Public Schools had 13,226 students – 300 more than the same time last year – enrolled on Thursday, the third day of school.

And if history holds true, that number will continue to grow over the next few days.

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Last year, the school system added 900 students to its rosters between the first and 10th day of classes.

&uot;We are continuing to grow,&uot; said Schools Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman, during Thursday’s Suffolk School Board meeting.

&uot;I expect it (the student population) could get as high as 13,700 before the year is out,&uot; he added.

The opening this week of the new $45 million King’s Fork High School, which had 1,134 students enrolled on Thursday, did much to alleviate overcrowding at Nansemond River and Lakeland high schools.

Lakeland had 1,187 students attending class on Thursday, 642 fewer that it had at the same time last year.

Nansemond River, which had 1,604 students last year, had 1,230 enrolled on the third day of classes.

The rapid student growth in recent years has left Suffolk grappling with a shortage of bus drivers, said Janet Holland, assistant superintendent.

As of Friday, the school division was still short seven drivers to handle 14 routes, Holland said.

But several people have filed applications in recent days, and a training class for prospective drivers begins on Monday. Anyone interested in information should contact Suffolk Public Schools’ personnel department at 925-5500.

Meanwhile, other employees are helping handle the shortage, Holland said.

A morning dispatcher and several school bus mechanics are temporarily covering routes until several newly hired drivers go through the training process.

Everyone – even the temporary drivers – has a commercial driver’s license authorizing them to drive a bus, she added.

Now that school has started, principals are working with transportation officials to refine the needs of each school’s bus routes, in some cases resulting in the consolidation of routes.

In other business, officials told board members that the first day of classes at King’s Fork High School went well.

A spokesman for the contractor estimated it will take another 30 days to fully complete the project. All that remains is work on the auditorium’s stage lighting, the agricultural education/shop building and communications labs.