Harnett County Schools face overcrowding issues

September 13, 2012 12:22:09 PM PDT
The impact of new soldiers and civilians moving to Fort Bragg is starting to affect the Harnett County school system.

Harnett County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, but the school system is having a hard time keeping up with the growth.

Administrators said because of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision to shift soldiers from Atlanta to Fort Bragg, many are settling in Harnett County. As a result, they have seen more than 750 new students enroll this year, and more are added each day.

"We knew there was going to be new growth. And we've been consistently growing over the past few years. But this year especially, so far we've had 776 new students and they're still coming in," school system spokesperson Patricia Harmon-Lewis said. "You could fill a school with that many kids."

During the first few days of school, one of the biggest problems for administrators was transportation issues. Parents complained about overcrowded buses and that children were riding three to a seat.

"We had a couple of situations where the buses came, they were completely full, and they had to tell the people standing there waiting at the bus stop there's another bus coming. But all that's been corrected," Harmon-Lewis said.

Overhills High School in Spring Lake is near Fort Bragg, and the school has been swamped with unexpected new arrivals.

"We have military personnel who are PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) in and out. And so students enroll every single day, literally. And so the enrollment continued to increase and the school board decided to institute a cap," Principal Dr. Kylon Middleton said.

Now, new students will be turned away and sent to Western Harnett High instead.

There is an immediate need for another high school, but it's not in the school system's budget yet. A new middle school is scheduled to open next year.

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