How the Minimum Foundation Program transformed the state, Part II

Georgia schools were in rough shape in the 1940s.

Schools were overcrowded, conditions were mostly bad and systems were broke.

The state’s educational performance was among the bottom in the United States and a movement was on the rise to create adequate education for citizens.

Starting in 1948, this push was referred to as the Minimum Foundation Program. It was seen as a new beginning.

Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today laid out what State Superintendent of Schools M.D. Collins felt was essential to the program.

In short, Collins proposed:
– An increase in teachers’ salaries. He suggested a minimum of $2,400 per year for an educator with a four-year college degree. (In June 1948, the minimum salary was $1,600.)
– Minimum salary for bus drivers.
– Money for school systems to build new schools.
– Funding the 12th grade (which was being erratically added in school systems).
– Providing state funds to match federal funds for vocational programs.
– Area trade schools.
– Further expanding libraries into rural areas.
– Further aid for adult vocational rehabilitation.
– A hot lunch at school for every child.
– State funds for veterans’ education.
– Equalization of school buildings.

Teachers’ salaries were considered low at that time. Dr. Ralph Newton of Mercer University noted in late 1948 that “1,400 teachers left Georgia last year to make better salaries in Florida, Alabama and North Carolina.”

Only 250 teachers graduated in 1948 from Georgia colleges.

For rural Georgia, the most impactful of the propositions would be the school building program.

The program, whose initial suggested funding was $83 million, had the backing of Governor M.E. Thompson. Addressing graduates at the Georgia State College for Women, he said it was necessary for student education.

Gubernatorial candidate Herman Talmadge included the Minimum Foundation Program as part of his platform. Talmadge said it was “good business.”

The Minimum Foundation’s early support was nearly universal. Getting it rolling took even longer.

1949-03-31 The Butler Herald (minimum foundation)

The Minimum Foundation Program was initially voted upon by the Georgia public in April 1949 as part of a tax increase. It was soundly defeated and would not be approved by the state for another two years.  (The Butler Herald, Mar. 31, 1949)

Unfortunately, it would be up to the 1949 Georgia General Assembly to vote on it. Worse, the earliest it could be enacted was September 1949.

The General Assembly looked at the Minimum Foundation Program in 1949, part of its final week of session. The House of Representatives were unanimous in initially approving it, but the Senate did not like the amendments with it. The Senate was instead working on a substitute bill.

The Minimum Foundation was put to the ballot in April 1949, as part of a $46 million tax referendum, which would have also included improvements to roads and health services. Taxes would have increased under the bill, which was soundly defeated. Gov. Talmadge had refused to give an opinion on the issue.

In January 1950, the bill still wasn’t financed and in late March, now-Gov. Talmadge said he “will place the Minimum Foundation Program for Education for our State of Georgia during the coming school year, God willing.”

Talmadge opposed summer sessions of the legislature so it appeared that the earliest the MFP would be funded was in January 1951. It was taking so long to get funded that Thompson was making it part of his platform for governor in 1950.

Worse, neither Talmadge nor Thompson was even sure where the state would get the money to fund it.

At a debate organized by the Georgia Education Association in June 1950, both candidates were asked about Minimum Foundation funding.

Talmadge said he did not want to burden the people of Georgia and suggested revising the tax code.

Thompson said, “We will provide genuine and homes tax revision. This includes repeal of the state property levy of 198 miscellaneous nuisance taxes and of the sales sax on cigarettes and gasoline enacted in 1949. We will pass a simple sales tax to make up for these tax losses and provide the additional funds required.”

Though the bill had not passed yet, the reach of the Minimum Foundation Program for Georgia was being noted nationwide, especially for what it would accomplish in the means of segregation.

A national UP wire story from November 1950 said it was the needed improvement of black schools that was giving it the extra push.

There were the lawsuits brewing in a few counties. One in Irwin County was still active in November and would not be dismissed for another month.

Plus, Sweatt v. Painter was decided in June 1950.

A Texas case, Herman Sweatt was barred for attending law school at the University of Texas because of race.

There was a law school for black students, but NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall pointed out, it was not of the same quality as that of the University of Texas. The case was filed in 1946.

When finally heard by the Supreme Court, the decision was unanimous be allowed to enroll at the University of Texas.

A black student was enrolled in classes in the South with white students. Separate but equal and segregation had taken a blow.

So far, noted an article printed in the Oelwein (Ia.) Daily Register, Georgia had not been called before the Supreme Court about school conditions. But conditions were awful and Georgia could easily be the home of the next big case to hit the nation.

Funding finally came through from the general assembly in 1951, which raised the yearly appropriation for education from $51 milltion to $81 million. It also set up a “state school building authority” to lease state-built buildings to local boards of education. The estimate of the cost of this program in March 1951 was $180 million. That figure would soon prove to be a low one.

(A 1952 estimate was set at $140 million, even when the first 29 systems approved for funds came in at $32 million.)

Collins, of course, was elated by the passage.

“A new era in education will begin with the implementation of this legislation,” he said in a wire item reprinted by The Butler Herald. “The time has come for us to review our efforts in providing more and better education for the children of Georgia.”

The state was ever mindful that the program could discriminate on the basis of the race and set parameters.

Noted one state board member in an Associated Press article printed in the Waycross Journal-Herald, “would be spent on white schools in preference to Negro schools,” unless funding was monitored.

One solution, the article said, was to “let the money follow the teacher.” An example given was to set aside the same amount of money per teacher. If a school system, it said, had 40 educators and 30 were white and 10 were black, $8,000 would go to the system, with $6,000 for white schools and $2,000 for black.

If one race’s schools were up-to-date, a system could request those funds go to the other race.

The State School Building Authority was upheld in a test case in January 1952 (on grounds that it created state debt and property was exempted from taxation).

Finally, It was time to reform Georgia’s school systems.

Sources: Houston Home Journal – Apr. 15, 1948, July 22, 1948, Dec. 2, 1948; The Butler Herald – June 10, 1948, Feb. 17, 1949, Apr. 7, 1949, Jan. 26, 1950, Mar. 30, 1950, May 4, 1950, June 8, 1950, Mar. 8, 1950; Oelwein Daily Register (Ia.) – Nov. 16, 1950; Waycross Journal-Herald – May 17, 1951; Rome News-Tribune – Jan. 15, 1952, Aug. 28, 1952; Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today

Advertisements

How the Minimum Foundation Program transformed the state, Part I

Note: This is the start of a series about the biggest change to ever hit Georgia public school education, the Minimum Foundation Program.

With most of the action happening in the 1950s, the Minimum Foundation Program completely reshaped school systems throughout the states, building new or adding to thousands of schools. It caused widespread consolidation of white high schools and eliminated more than 75 percent of black schools over a 10-year span, from 1949-50 to 1959-60.

How did it happen and why was it so huge?

We’ll start in the years before the Minimum Foundation’s school building program began.

Georgia schools had no money in the 1940s.

There was a teacher pay crisis at the state level in 1939-40.

Upson County borrowed $5,000 to pay its educators in April 1940 when the state failed. Teachers in Bacon County in 1939 were working in March despite being owed 2.5 months of salary. The county school system had previously paid one month of it.

Wartime made funds tighter.

Despite Barney High winning its second straight state boys basketball championship in 1944, Brooks County closed the school and sent the children to Morven High.

Brooks couldn’t pay extra teacher salaries after the state dropped the allotment granted to the system because of falling attendance. At Dixie High, also in Brooks County, home economics and agriculture classes were also dropped at that time because of the lack of money available.

The end of the war resulted in a boom – particularly a baby boom – but Georgia’s schools were in bad shape.

Overcrowding was a major problem.

In 1950, Clinch County estimated the 500 students in the Homerville school were double what the building was designed to hold.

Telfair barracks (LAOSATAT)

Old military barracks were the entirety of the classroom buildings at Telfair County’s Ocmulgee School in 1949, which served grades 1-11 (later 1-12). Ocmulgee had burned, but Telfair lacked the funds to rebuild on its own, necessitating the use of the barracks. (Photo from Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today)

At the complete northern end of the state, Chatsworth was having to use space at the First Baptist Church, in addition to its grammar school regular classrooms, an auditorium and “other space” because of needed classrooms in 1948.

Murray County had passed a $175,000 bond, but there was bickering in the county that $40,500 was going to Chatsworth Grammar.

The April 26, 1948 Chatsworth Times reported:

“The Board of Education is making every effort to spread and stretch the $175,000.00 bond money to take care of the greatest needs in schools over the county. The trust is at least $500,000.00 is needed to put Murray County’s schools in first class shape, Mr. [Superintendent Ray] Bagley stated. The $175,000.00 is being distributed as fairly among the schools as the board thinks it can possibly be done.”

The $40,500 going to Chatsworth Grammar wasn’t even close to filling all of its needs. The school was still going to lack a lunchroom as there wasn’t enough money to build one. The system was stretching its dime to get six classrooms, a library, an office and two restrooms in the deal.

Money was scarce in other ways, too.

Haralson County was so broke in April 1949 that it wanted to stop school bus services.

The Haralson County Tribune described how dire the situation was in its April 28, 1949 edition:

“County School Superintendent Ernest H. Goldin informed [The Haralson County Tribune] a few days ago that it would utterly be impossible to pay transportation costs of the buses in this country next term and for that reason several of the country schools would be reopened to take care of the children in their immediate vicinities. It will mean that a lot of the children who have been riding the buses will either walk to school or their parents will have to transport them.

“”We have gone just as far as we can. In fact, we have scraped the bottom of the barrel, and on top of that, the county system is in debt,” so said Supt. Goldin.”

Goldin and the county school board appealed to State School Superintendent M.D. Collins. Collins said no funds were available to help, adding that he was getting requests from other small school systems.

In June, however, Haralson and Goldin were informed they must run buses if they planned on having schools. State officials said the buses were “integral” to school operations.

With little money to fund new buildings or anything else in their systems, counties were not exactly building schools to grow with the future.

Hazlehurst High burned in 1947. When the new high school – christened Jeff Davis – opened in September 1949, 302 students were put into 15 regular classrooms. Barely two years later, a school survey finished in January 1952 was already recommending a new high school.

The 1952 committee noted about the 1949 Jeff Davis High, “The present site is not expandable appreciably and should not have any more buildings added to it.”

Ringgold Grammar added six classrooms in 1951. The building burned in 1954 and was almost immediately under reconstruction. When the plans were announced in early 1955 for Catoosa County’s building program, Ringgold Grammar already needed 10 more classrooms.

And few were stepping in for black schools.

When money was being spent, almost all tended to go to white schools.

DSC02787

Middle Hill was one of 41 black schools in Washington County when the Minimum Foundation Program began. Because of delays in the county’s building projects when white Tennille High wasn’t keen on consolidating, Middle Hill operated in this building through the 1957-58 school year. By virtue of being (at least) two teachers, Middle Hill was larger than 54 percent of black schools in the state, which had one teacher in 1950. The building was assuredly nicer than most, too. Middle Hill’s old school building is being used by the church of the same name, the box air conditioning units a later addition.

A lawsuit was hanging over Irwin County’s head in 1950 over conditions at black schools (dismissed in December 1950). In June 1950, voters approved bonds to improve schools in the county, namely the building of a new consolidated white high school.

The bonds approved issued $130,000 for the white high school, $20,000 for improvements at Irwinville, $5,000 each for white schools at Mystic and Holt and $30,000 to replace the black high school.

Even with a lawsuit that threatened to change the very fabric of the county’s being, Irwin felt compelled to only spend 16 percent of the bond on black students. And all of that percentage was going to one building. Irwin County operated 11 black schools as of June 1950, according to the Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education.

In October 1948, Mitchell County’s Board of Education refused to even provide windows or doors for the African-American Greenough School.

A committee from Greenough asked for 22 windows and seven doors for the buildings, which they said did not have any. After discussing the matter, the board told the committee to ask around in the community and “make out somehow as there were no funds available for work on school buildings.”

(Later in the same report, the Mitchell BOE was said to sell two old school buses for $1,000. New buses had recently been purchased. The Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports, in giving its report on school bus transportation for each county, noted that Mitchell County’s school system provided no buses for black students.)

Clearly education in Georgia was underfunded and unequal. There had to be a remedy to fix horrible situations occurring all over the state.

Sources: The Macon Telegraph – April 28, 1940; The Alma Times – March 23, 1939; The Quitman Free Press – Aug. 31, 1944; Clinch County News – March 3, 1950; Jeff Davis County Ledger – Sept. 22, 1949, Jan. 10, 1952; The Ocilla Star – June 1, 1950, Dec. 28, 1950; The Chatsworth Times – Aug. 26, 1948; The Haralson County Tribune – Apr. 28, 1949, June 2, 1949; The Catoosa County News – Aug. 2, 1951, Jan. 20, 1955; The Camilla Enterprise – Oct. 8, 1948; Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education; Report on Georgia Schools (1960); Look At Our Schools! 1949 … as they are today.

Eugene Cook’s high school football segregation fit

Most basic American history books point to a handful of big cases involving the rights of African-Americans.

There’s the Dred Scott decision. Voting rights established in the Constitution and the couple of Supreme Court cases where you can actually remember both sides: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. (1954).

Plessy v. Ferguson is commonly attributed as being the court case that established “separate but equal.” The latter, the Brown case, is supposed to have ended segregation entirely.

Of course, history is not as plain as that or as easy to enforce. Georgia fought long and hard for school segregation, with the University of Georgia integrating in January 1961 and four Atlanta public schools doing so in late August 1961. Several school districts integrated after 1965 and only under federal pressure.

Schools were not the only thing to desegregate years after the Brown decision. Macon integrated lunch counters in October 1961. The Wilcox County library was whites-only until July 1965.

Likewise, Plessy v. Ferguson did not guarantee that separate but equal would actually be equal. Lawsuits were filed in a handful of Georgia counties after World War II, including Irwin and Camden, asking for the equalization of school systems.

But even the supposed defeat of segregation in Brown v. Board in 1954 was not enough for Georgia Attorney General Eugene Cook to deny what was supposed to be set up by Plessy in 1896.

Cook outlawed a football game in 1956 on separate but equal grounds when equal grounds did not exist.

Hill High, an African-American institution of LaFayette, had been slated to meet Summerville High (usually called Summerville Negro is newspaper articles; Summerville’s black school was later named A.C. Carter) November 29, 1956, which was to take place at Sturdivant Stadium in Summerville.

Sturdivant Stadium was the home of the white Summerville High.

This enraged Cook, who ordered the game cancelled November 28.

The Savannah Morning News reported, “Cook said he told the officials Georgia’s segregation laws provide for separate facilities in the classroom and auditoriums as well as in the gymnasiums and football stadiums.”

There was a huge problem with this ruling.

Summerville’s black high school did not have a football field. Nor did Hill, which shared fields with LaFayette High at Patton Stadium.

The Ku Klux Klan protested the game, which was enough to get Chattooga County Schools to jump. They feared the wrath of Cook and worried that it might cost them state funds if the game was held.

Chattooga Countians were not thrilled with the decision. An estimated 1,500 of them cheered at a Jaycees meeting in Summerville when Cook was criticized for the move.

State Senator-elect Bobby Lee Cook, a Summerville-based attorney, was equally mad with the attorney general and promised to let him have it for two hours once Bobby Lee Cook took his seat in the Senate in January 1957.

The two black high schools were not even getting much out of it for themselves. Proceeds of the game, said the December 1956 edition of Southern School News, would have benefited the band of the white Summerville High.

Jaycees president Charles Farrar said $500 had been spent to promote the game. The group had hoped to make $2,500. Segregated seating had been planned.

Farrar promised that if necessary, the game would be held in a cow pasture. There were no follow-ups following the Southern School News article in December. Neither Summerville nor LaFayette newspapers seemingly ever even mentioned the game. (Rome News-Tribune editions from the end of 1956 are not included with Google’s scans of the paper’s archives, limiting spur of the moment research.)

Eugene Cook’s and the Klan’s interest in the game are a bit strange.

Separate but equal facilities were routinely overlooked in the land of high school football, where most white and black football-playing schools had agreements about use of the white field.

Rome’s Main High played at Barron Stadium. Fairmont High in Griffin played at Memorial Stadium, before and after a money-losing attempt at hosting their own games. Cleveland Field was home to Dasher and later Pinevale in Valdosta. Athens High and Industrial (later known as Burney Harris) even played at least a handful of games at Sanford Stadium.

Eugene Cook had dozens of examples to choose from every week on the high school gridiron of a black school playing at a playing field used by white players at all other times. He picked on a benefit game between two very small high schools and in two areas with a small black population.

Earlier in 1956, Eugene Cook turned down another attempt at venue-sharing between a white high school and a black high school that lacked facilities.

Dallas High was considering allowing Matthews High to use the gym one night per week.

There was much hesitancy to this on the part of Dallas residents and Paulding County Superintendent J.C. Scoggins asked for Eugene Cook’s opinion.

Not surprisingly, Cook shot down the idea on the grounds that it violated Georgia’s “social customs and traditions.”

Postscript: Some idea of how Sturdivant Stadium looked can be gleaned from the backgrounds of some sporting images at Chattooga Photo History. Located on Summerville High’s land (and Chattooga High’s after consolidation), Sturdivant Stadium was used by Chattooga High through the 1965 season.

Sources: Camden County Tribune – March 9, 1951; The Daily Tifton Gazette – Nov. 30, 1956; The Lanier County News – Nov. 3, 1949; Rome News-Tribune – Nov. 1, 1961; The Savannah Morning News – Nov. 29, 1956; Southern School News – March 1956, December 1956; The Wilcox County Chronicle – June 17, 1965

A look back at the state’s largest high schools, part II

In the first part of looking back at attendance numbers of Georgia’s biggest high schools through the 1960s, it seemed like it was big cities who led the way with large student bodies.

Fast-forward a decade later and things were starting to rapidly change.

The Georgia High School began printing average daily attendance with region lists in its handbooks, starting with classification of 1978-79. Reclassification occurred every two years, which does not seem like much time for massive shifts, but in some cases, there were.

Ten years after printing the initial ADA lists, leaders were quite different. Most of the trends in 1988 are still present now.

1978-80 (Georgia High School Association handbooks)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,635)
  2. Forest Park (1,923)
  3. Warner Robins (1,679)
  4. Griffin (1,624)
  5. Jonesboro (1,578)

Note: The GHSA was likely only using 10th-12th grade data for ADA until 1998.

What a difference a decade makes.

The Bibb County reorganization of 1970 tossed together eight high schools: three all-female, three all-male and two coed and traditionally African-American. Before the reorganization, the largest high schools had been in the central part of Macon, Lanier and A.L. Miller. Southwest did not get these students in reorganization, but did receive the Willingham and McEvoy territory, combined with students from Ballard-Hudson.

Perhaps not shockingly, Southwest was a state powerhouse in boys basketball at this time. Under the legendary Don Richardson, the squad won six state titles over a 20-year span and in 1979, went 28-0.

Forest Park had been among the largest high schools in the state at the end of the 1960s. Atlanta’s sprawl contributed to its growth, as it did with Jonesboro, another Clayton County school. Warner Robins grew rapidly during the same decade.

Griffin began its run near the top of the heap for large high schools and would remain there until a second public high school, Spalding, was built.

1980-82 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,818)
  2. Parkview (2,101)
  3. Forest Park (1,833)
  4. Griffin (1,745)
  5. Walton (1,682)

For the first time, a Gwinnett County school appears on the list.

Parkview opened in 1976. Its growth was arrested in 1981 when Brookwood opened. This will not be the last appearance of a Gwinnett school.

Walton, from Cobb County, is the first top five school to come from there.

Atlanta was spreading out of the city and it was mostly spreading north.

1982-84 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,433)
  2. Griffin (1,899)
  3. Walton (1,874)
  4. Forest Park (1,662)
  5. Warner Robins (1,626)

No surprises and no one new. Brookwood opened as a fairly small school in 1981, estimated ADA of 555, but it was enough to pull at the base of Parkview students, which was now listed at 1,596. Parkview later dropped below 1,200 students on the GHSA lists in the mid-1990s. That, too, did not last.

1984-86 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,312)
  2. Griffin (1,842)
  3. Newton County (1,448)
  4. Warner Robins (1,425)
  5. Northside, Warner Robins (1,394)

Numbers dip for the next two classification cycles. The only metro Atlanta school on the list was Newton County, its sole appearance in the top five. Newton was the county’s lone public high school at this time, a status it entertained for another decade, until the opening of Eastside.

Northside had actually dropped from 1,600 students in the 1982-84.

1986-88 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,092)
  2. Griffin (1,777)
  3. Lassiter (1,660)
  4. Walton (1,462)
  5. Evans (1,389)

This was Southwest’s final appearance as one of the state’s top five largest high schools. Macon’s now-defunct Southeast High joined the GHSA in 1988 with an initial ADA of 1,000 and obviously pulled at least some students from Southwest. In 1988, Southwest’s ADA was 1,040.

Evans made its sole appearance here and immediately saw numbers fall because of a new high school. Lakeside (Evans) opened in 1988 and nearly 900 students immediately entered its doors.

That actually made only a slight dent in Evans’ numbers, which were listed as being 909 in 1988.

Eighteen years earlier, Evans’ ADA had been 490 and as a school with grades 6-12, the entire student population was 918.

1988-90 (GHSA)

  1. Lassiter (2,390)
  2. Griffin (1,980)
  3. Walton (1,876)
  4. Dunwoody (1,843)
  5. Sprayberry (1,791)

Three schools are from Cobb County. A fourth is from Gwinnett.

Dunwoody’s numbers spiked with the addition of students from Peachtree High, which closed in 1988. In only one other reclassification period, 1998-99 (at 1,719) has Dunwoody come as close to having the this many students. By that point, the GHSA changed how it calculated average daily attendance and all schools had a significant increase. Dunwoody may be close to surpassing that number now, though, as currently it is listed as having 1,697 students.

Sprayberry was the second oldest high school on the list. It opened in 1952.

1990-92 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,907)
  2. Jonesboro (1,774)
  3. Redan (1,621)
  4. Lassiter (1,589)
  5. Sprayberry (1,588)

Lassiter’s drop in students (700 between classification cycles) has no clear explanation at the moment, other than the GHSA perhaps not measuring the impact of the opening of Pope High.

Pope opened in 1987 and then was given an estimated ADA of  1,125 in 1988-90. While Cobb did cut one high school (Campbell absorbed Wills in 1989), Pope and Harrison, which opened in 1991, were tasked with lessening the major overcrowding going on in the school system.

In 1990, Cobb had had 11 public high schools. Now, it has 16.

Similarly, the GHSA declined to estimate attendance at the new (1989) Mount Zion High in Clayton County, which possibly kept Jonesboro in the top five if MZ’s impact was not being considered. In 1992, Jonesboro had an ADA of 1,230.

1992-94 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,952)
  2. Brookwood (1,676)
  3. McEachern (1,671)
  4. North Cobb (1,577)
  5. Redan (1,476)

1994-96 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,859)
  2. Brookwood (1,765)
  3. Lassiter (1,528)
  4. Redan (1,521)
  5. Walton (1,500)

This was Redan’s last appearance on the list. Redan’s numbers remained stabled until 2013-14 period (and currently at 1,025), but that, of course, couldn’t compare with the exponential growth in counties around DeKalb.

1996-98 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (1,792)
  2. Lassiter (1,711)
  3. Chattahoochee (1,709)
  4. Griffin (1,657)
  5. Walton (1,557)

Chattahoochee’s numbers swelled as north Fulton County’s did. Centennial relieved some pressure with a 1997 opening as did Northview in 2002. A third high school, Johns Creek, also opened in the old Chattahoochee attendance zone, doing so in 2009.

1998-00 (GHSA)

  1. Chattahoochee (2,760)
  2. Griffin (2,695)
  3. Harrison (2,566)
  4. Lassiter (2,536)
  5. Brookwood (2,465)

Griffin was knocked from its perch in 2000 when Spalding High opened with an estimate of 800 students.

2000-02 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (2,860)
  2. Harrison (2,806)
  3. McEachern (2,694)
  4. Lassiter (2,676)
  5. Brookwood (2,651)

And we have the first appearance of Collins Hill.

A Gwinnett school opened in 1994, it immediately had an attendance of 1,247 students. It grew. There was an ADA of 1,491 in 1996 and 2,247 in 1998.

Three schools on the list are Cobb County schools and two are from Gwinnett.

2002-04 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,484)
  2. Brookwood (2,908)
  3. Lassiter (2,802)
  4. McEachern (2,786)
  5. Chattahoochee (2,607)

In two years, Collins Hill has grown by 600 students.

Centennial, which cut into Chattahoochee’s attendance area, has 2,114 students in 2002.

2004-06 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (4,089)
  2. McEachern (3,115)
  3. Brookwood (3,000)
  4. North Gwinnett (2,748)
  5. Lowndes (2,682)

Collins Hill peaks in size on GHSA lists. Mill Creek opened that year with 2,200 students, but that did little to staunch the amount of students entering school in that section of the county. North Gwinnett, in an adjoining school district, also felt the impact of the surge.

With Cobb and Gwinnett trying to keep up with high school growth, Lowndes sneaks into the top five. The Lowndes Board of Education gave heavy consideration in 2007 to building a new high school north of Valdosta (with an estimated open year of 2010), but nothing came of it.

2006-08 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,443.5)
  2. McEachern (3,432.5)
  3. Brookwood (3,130)
  4. Kennesaw Mountain (2,940)
  5. Camden County (2,678)

Kennesaw Mountain opened in 2000 with 2,000 students, helping to relieve some of the stress of northern Cobb schools. Hillgrove (opened 2006) and Allatoona (2008) have since opened in the area. Hillgrove took much stress off McEachern as well, which now operates at 1,000 students less.

Camden County remains the lone high school in Camden.

Moderately sized through the 1980s, its growth accelerated with Kings Bay’s naval submarine base, which estimated in 1992 that its impact would mean an additional 1,000 students in the school system over the course of a decade. There do not seem to be any reports of Camden perhaps splitting its high school, which has been located in all three of its major cities (Woodbine, St. Marys and Kingsland) over the course of its history.

2008-10 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,771.5)
  2. Collins Hill (3,643)
  3. Brookwood (3,409.5)
  4. Grayson (3,107.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,051)

Mill Creek opened in 2004 to relieve Collins Hill. Mountain View opened in 2009 to help relieve Mill Creek.

Lanier opened in 2010, Peachtree Ridge opened in 2003, Grayson in 2000 and Archer, on the east side of the county, opened in 2009.

All five of the top five were Gwinnett schools.

2010-12 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (3,433.5)
  2. Mill Creek (3,361 – projected)
  3. Collins Hill (3,335)
  4. Berkmar (3,208.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,152)

All five were again Gwinnett schools and the list has stayed that way. The projected figure for Mill Creek is because of Mountain View, which was projected to have 1,917 students.

2012-14 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (2,766)
  2. Norcross (2,709)
  3. Brookwood (2,560)
  4. Collins Hill (2,539)
  5. Berkmar (2,512)

Note: Looks like a momentary return to three-grade ADA.

2014-16 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,708)
  2. Norcross (3,649)
  3. Berkmar (3,376)
  4. Brookwood (3,372)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,204)

2016-18 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,998)
  2. Norcross (3,753)
  3. Brookwood (3,476)
  4. Peachtree Ridge (3,201)
  5. Collins Hill (3,175)

Discovery High opened in 2015 and is currently listed with a 2,127 ADA. Gwinnett is planning to relieve high schools on the west side of the county even more.

A Gwinnett high school attendance zone map indicates that Paul Duke STEM High School will open in 2018 with another theme high school to open in the Meadowcreek area in 2019. A name has not been announced for the latter.

Gwinnett’s growth can be traced to the spread of Atlanta and a spread of students from both Atlanta/Fulton and DeKalb areas.

In 1960, the county school system had high schools at Central Gwinnett, Dacula, Duluth, Hooper-Renwick (African-American), Lilburn, North Gwinnett, South Gwinnett, West Gwinnett (which soon reverted back to the name of Norcross).

Lilburn gave ground to Berkmar in the middle of the decade and Hooper-Renwick integrated into other schools, but things began changing in the 1970s. Exponential growth, however, has only been in the past 20-25 years.