Greg Hamilton is the first to admit a sudden spike in enrollment can leave a new superintendent scratching his head.

He should know. It happened to him.

Hamilton is seven months into his position as superintendent of Franklin County schools, but he said he knew from the beginning growing pains would have to be addressed.

"Enrollment throughout the system is either holding its own or growing," Hamilton said. "I believe it's tied to the job our teachers are doing, and just a genuine desire in our system to want to deliver the best education possible to every student who comes to us."

Students in Franklin County return to the classroom Aug. 9.

The district's noticeable enrollment increase started last year after district lines changed in Russellville. The Russellville district implemented a new out-of-district policy for students where students who do not live in the city limits would pay $600 per year. 

"We had the greatest increases at Tharptown and Belgreen, and Phil Campbell is regaining enrollment each year since the tornado," Hamilton said.

This year, the Franklin County school district earned 15 new teaching units from the state due to enrollment spikes.

"Last year, we increased 250 students systemwide and it could be even more than that this year," Hamilton said.

During the summer, Hamilton said physical upgrades have been made at every campus, creating freshly painted, attractive facilities that "parents and students can be proud of."

With enrollment increases have come the need for more space in schools. Tharptown School is gaining 10 new classrooms and a new cafeteria.

Other schools are in need of upgrades, and bus routes have been tweaked to accommodate the increase.

Former Tharptown Elementary Principal Ann Scott is among those who'll be in new positions at the start of school. Scott has been named Belgreen School principal.

Lance Mitchell is Red Bay's principal and Paul Humphres has been named assistant principal at Vina High School.

Hamilton said he hopes to fill Tharptown Elementary's principal position around the start of school.

Scott, who is beginning her fifth year in administration, has experience in school growth. "We're already looking at where we can put new classrooms at Belgreen," she said.

Currently, she said the school has a couple of extra classrooms.

"I'd say the greatest challenge with enrollment increase is determining how to best educate greater diversity in your population, especially with our English language learners," Scott said. 

A building in the back on the Belgreen campus is being refurbished to accommodate a prekindergarten classroom.

"Being new here at Belgreen, I'm making my first focus on instruction, and I'm looking at test scores to determine a plan for reviewing our curriculum and making adjustments as they're needed," she said. "This is a gorgeous campus, and I'm looking forward to being here, challenges and all."

Since last year, the district has had major technology upgrades in all schools, Hamilton said. All classes now have Chromebooks -- some individually issued and some shared classroom-wide. 

"Technology has been a focus of mine because it has to be on par for our district to move forward," he said. "We're looking to hire a technology classroom instructor systemwide to help integrate technology across the curriculum."

Hamilton said more is being offered in the career technical program with a revamped cosmetology program and the addition of a coding class. The district also will offer broadened programs with family/consumer science and health sciences.

Franklin County's career technical center is on the Belgreen campus. It includes building construction, autobody, welding and robotics classes. 

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(1) comment

Delgado Christophe

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