Fort Mill fights space crunch caused by soaring enrollment

FORT MILL -- Fort Mill's school enrollment has grown by 804 students -- more than 10 percent -- since this time last year, with some Springfield Elementary teachers using conference rooms and even the cafeteria stage as classrooms.

The district's enrollment as of Sept. 5 was 8,635 students, officials said at a school board meeting Monday night.

Springfield Elementary experienced the largest enrollment surge with 222 additional students. The biggest surprise came with kindergartners, whose numbers this year were underestimated by 30 to 40 students.

"We are utilizing every square inch of space, maintaining the student-teacher ratio and using portables," schools Superintendent Keith Callicutt said of Springfield Elementary. "We are confident we can get through this year."

A more complex problem is expected next school year, when all of the district's elementary schools are expected to be at or beyond capacity.

Solutions district officials are considering for the 2008-2009 school year include moving an entire grade or part of a grade out of Springfield and adding more portables.

"We are looking at freezing enrollment, but we have to have a place to put the additional students," Callicutt said. "We are looking at which seats we have available at other schools. We must get through another year."

The district is building two more elementary schools in 2009 with part of a $70.3 million installment purchase plan mortgage the district approved in December. In March, voters will be asked to OK bond sales totaling $87.2 million to build another two elementary schools and a middle school. The ballot also will include a separate item asking $9.95 million more for auxiliary gyms at each high school and a stadium at Nation Ford High.

Springfield Elementary Principal Scott Frattaroli said most of the school's growth is coming from residential development at the back of Regent Park.

For the first time this year, Springfield Elementary added two portable units with four classrooms.

Frattaroli said some teachers with smaller classes in special areas are using conference rooms for offices and moving with carts into other teachers' classrooms for instruction. The mobile laptop classroom is being relocated onto the cafeteria stage, Frattaroli said. Lunch is being served from 10:45 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.

"Core areas are pressed," Callicutt said.

The school district collected a record $510,000 in impact fees in August, he added. The money came from 204 new homes built in the district during that month.