By the numbers
Elementary schools with the largest gains
• Dupont Elementary, up 62 students
• East Brainerd Elementary, up 62 students
• Orchard Knob Elementary, up 50 students
• Spring Creek Elementary, up 59 students
• Clifton Hills Elementary, up 57 students
Middle schools with the largest gains
• Ooltewah Middle, up 79 students
• Hixson Middle, up 71 students
• Signal Mountain, up 50 students
• East Ridge Middle, up 49 students
• East Hamilton, up 42 students
High schools with the largest declines
• Brainerd High, down 162 students
• Soddy-Daisy High, down 100 students
• Tyner Academy, down 65 students
• Red Bank High, down 59 students
• East Ridge High, down 48 students
Hamilton County's elementary and middle schools continued to gain students this fall, though high school enrollment is on the decline.
The Hamilton County Department of Education released its 20th-day enrollment count Thursday, which showed an overall enrollment of 42,236 students, up 286 from last year's 20th day count of 41,950.
Administrators had planned for an additional 500 students this year. Though they're shy of that, Superintendent Rick Smith said he expects Wednesday's head count was skewed by recent inclement weather.
Hamilton County canceled classes Tuesday and delayed school Wednesday in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee, which dumped up to a foot of rain across the region.
"This is a one-day snapshot, 20th day, taken following a major weather event with thousands of residents without power," Smith said in a statement. "I expect some students who are enrolled in our schools were not in attendance Wednesday due to the weather."
Wednesday's count includes 20,840 elementary students, 9,467 middle school students and 11,929 high school students, a gain of 209 elementary students and 267 middle school students. High schools lost 190 students compared with last year.
Still, several high schools had significant gains. Signal Mountain Middle/High gained 108 high school students over last year and 50 middle school students. Principal Tom McCullough said students are quickly filling the school, which has a combined enrollment of 1,335.
Before the combination school opened in 2008, up to 38 percent of students from Signal Mountain's two public elementary schools entered private middle and high schools. Now, only about 10 percent are going to private schools, McCullough said.
Student enrollment is likely to continue growing as the school's first classes graduate. Last year, McCullough said 102 seniors graduated, but another 225 students entered the sixth grade.
"We're out of classrooms," he said.
McCullough has hired four additional teachers, but he said he's asked the school system to help in managing the growth.
"We really need to look at a plan of how we manage our enrollment from here on out, because we are at capacity," he said.
Another of the county's newest schools, East Hamilton School, a middle-high combination, remains full with 918 middle school students and 1,116 high school students.
At East Brainerd Elementary, Principal Bryan Stewart said an additional 62 students have pushed the school, which is divided in two buildings, to capacity.
When he started there six years ago, the school had about 510 students, he said. Now, that number is up to 704.
"We're at full capacity," he said. "There's no room."
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...