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Springfield Elementary to freeze enrollment in June

Enrollment at Springfield Elementary School will be frozen beginning June 6, making it Fort Mill's third elementary school with an enrollment freeze.

Orchard Park and Gold Hill elementaries' attendance already is capped, with new students being sent to Riverview Elementary.

Overflow students from Springfield will attend Fort Mill Elementary, the district's only elementary school with fewer than 800 students. The district has five elementary schools.

"We didn't want to stress enrollment at Riverview next year," said Chuck Epps, a district assistant superintendent.

Riverview had 855 students as of Monday.

Enrollment capacity in Fort Mill's elementary schools is about 900 students per school. A total of 941 students were attending Springfield Elementary on Monday. That grew to 944 by Thursday. Three double mobile units have been installed, equaling six additional classrooms.

Scott Frattaroli, the school's principal, estimates Springfield's enrollment will be 970 to 1,000 students by the end of the school year. He believes there is room on the property for one more double and another single unit, totaling three additional classrooms, if necessary.

"Last year after the holiday break, we registered 23 new students," Frattaroli said. "There are quite a few (home) developments (zoned for Springfield Elementary attendance) down Pleasant Road and at the back area of Regent Park, as well as in Springfield."

The elementary school day begins at 7:45 a.m., and Springfield's lunch hour begins at 10:45 a.m. The last group, kindergartners who are served a hefty snack each morning, begins lunch at 12:25 p.m.

Despite school crowding and stalled homebuilding nationwide, homes continue to go up in the district. During November, the district collected $437,500 in impact fees for new homes under construction. That is $117,000 more than what the district collected in impact fees in October.

"We are confident we can manage what's at Springfield for the rest of the year," Epps said. "We are trying to get through 2008-2009. From 2009 through 2011, we should be OK."

Fort Mill, considered the fastest-growing school district in the state, plans to open two elementary schools in 2009 with part of a $70.3 million installment purchase plan mortgage the board approved a year ago.

In March, voters will be asked to approve $87.1 million in bonds for designing, constructing, equipping and furnishing a new middle school and two new elementary schools, plus acquiring land for future school sites. Those elementary schools would be expected to open in 2011. A second ballot item for $8.6 million would provide an additional gym at each of the high schools and a 5,000-seat stadium at Nation Ford High.

School attendance boundaries must be altered each time a new school opens. The district expects attendance realignment for the new elementary schools opening in 2009 to be completed in about a year.

The district's plan for handling excess enrollment at Springfield is the same as it has been at Gold Hill and Orchard Park elementaries. Parents or a school bus will transport students to the elementary school for which their home is zoned. The district then shuttles children enrolled after the freeze to either Fort Mill or Riverview elementary.

"We feel it's a little inconvenient," Epps said, "but we believe it's going as smoothly as it can."

As seats open through attrition at the schools under a freeze, students will be invited back to their home school based on date of family residency and the grade level at which a seat is available. In the future, the district also will consider siblings as one unit as seats become available.

The district has been growing by about 450 students per year, according to a consultant. After the new elementary schools open in 2011, the district is expected to have enough capacity for another six or seven years.

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