published Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Rising school enrollment, inadequate facilities

With a few weeks of classes under their belt, Hamilton County's public schools have reported that enrollment for fall semester totals 42,248 students -- an increase from last year's 41,930.

That represents the continuation of a trend of rising enrollment over most of the past decade. Except for a dip from the 2006-07 academic year to 2007-08, local enrollment has risen every year since 2004-05. The most recent figure of 42,248, in fact, is the highest enrollment in almost a decade. (Of course, thousands of additional local youngsters are in private or home schools.)

Schools in some areas of the county are at or above capacity. For instance, East Hamilton School, which includes both middle and high school, was built for fewer than 1,700 students but has nearly 2,100.

Rising enrollment has prompted Superintendent Rick Smith to call for more school construction.

"We've got to get busy," he told the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

We don't doubt the need to provide good facilities for the vitally important purpose of educating our young people. But every bit as important as adequate buildings is the motivation of students in those buildings to seize educational opportunity.

The initial excitement of the new school year is wearing off for a lot of students by now as they settle into a routine of classes and activities. But while the newness may fade, we urge them to maintain enthusiastic dedication to their course work.

That will yield enormous benefits for the rest of their lives.

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