As leaders from various educational institutions in Maury County gathered for a summit this week, one thing became clear: Primary and secondary education institutions in the region continue to experience unprecedented growth.
At the summit hosted by the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Columbia, Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Hickman said the public school district of over 13,000 students grew by 600 new students this year.
“We’ve seen almost a whole school of students coming to the district this year,” Hickman said. “It’s a very difficult time. It’s been amazing what we had to go through. Education has remained a priory throughout the ordeal, and we are just going to keep moving forward. We will continue to work to make sure we give our students exactly what they need. ”
Hickman also said the continuing shortage of teachers is another issue plaguing the district. However, he also praised the district for moving from state designation of “in need of improvement” to “satisfactory,” according to recent state test results.
At Columbia Academy, a private Christian school in the heart of Maury County, President James A. Thomas said the school this year had a record enrollment of over 1,073 students across its two campuses in Columbia and Spring Hill.
Enrollment has increased by 100 students this school year, he said.
“One of our biggest challenges is classroom space,” said Thomas. “We are working on a plan to address this. The pandemic has resulted in the growth of many private schools across the state. I hope we will all continue what we are doing at the highest level.”
The principal of the Agathos Classical School, Ted Trainor, also pointed out that the small Christian school continues to grow, explaining that to keep up with its expansion, the institution has partnered with the First United Methodist Church on West 7th Street Church to host the school’s high school classes. .
The school now has 290 students enrolled, after approximately eight years of continuous growth, providing a learning environment that emphasizes critical thinking and reduces the emphasis on technology.
Over 70 students are new to the school this year.
“We want to make sure we maintain and preserve the culture that produces mature students,” Trainor said. “We want our students to put technology aside as a communication tool, so these are people who dive deep into reading. That’s what the world needs right now. People who can focus for periods of time. intense and communicate what they know. “
Rick Jarvis, school principal at Zion Christian Academy, shared similar observations, noting that the private Christian school located near Mt. Pleasant is now working to expand its facilities to handle the influx of new students. students.
“We’re running out of space,” Jarvis said. “We have a waiting list for some of our grade levels, and we’ll start building in a year or two. We’re excited about what this will look like. We don’t like to turn away families, but we do. just not. have space for our grade levels. “
Data collected from the 2019-2020 U.S. Census indicates Maury County is the fastest growing county in the state with a growth rate of 2.89%, overtaking neighboring counties for the top spot ahead. Williamson and Marshall, ranked # 2 and # 12, respectively.
Maury County has passed 100,000 residents, while Columbia has about 40,300 residents, according to the 2020 US Census. The city has also registered a record number of building permits, expecting more than 6,000 new homes will be built over the next few years.
From 2015 to 2020, the region’s population increased by 13.5%.
In September, financial technology firm Smart Asset ranked Maury County as the number one most inbound investment in Tennessee.
At the same time, the average price of a house has increased by over 60%.
Columbia State Experiences Decline in Enrollment
As the county’s elementary and secondary schools expand, Dr. Janet F. Smith, president of Columbia State Community College, expected enrollment to decline.
But despite the pandemic, Smith said the school’s graduation rates continue to “remain high,” although enrollments are slightly lower than in 2019.
“Our people came together, our students and our faculty came together with a job to do,” Smith said. “They accepted the challenges they had and we were determined to succeed.”
With a total population of 5,926 students taking online and in-person courses across the college’s five campuses in Maury, Williamson, Lawrence, Marshall, and Wayne counties as of early 2020, the institution has declined by 387 students compared to to 2019.
As regulations continue to weaken and new infections decline in the county, Smith said the college is starting to see an increase in the number of students submitting applications.
Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.