Friday marked the end of the first week of classes for students in the Limestone County school district but the start of the highest enrollment year yet and the start of several new programs and classes for students.
"We had an awesome start to school," Superintendent Tom Sisk said. "We opened the day with 10,048 students, the largest anyone can remember."
That number could rise even higher with late enrollees or the hundreds of virtual students who have yet to be counted. Sisk said it's "very possible" the district will reach or exceed 11,000 students for the first time in history.
The number of teachers could also rise. Sisk said district officials are paying close attention to overcrowding in the county, particularly at elementary schools.
"Once we get closer to the 20-day count, we may have to request new teaching units," he said. "... I'm thinking we are probably going to have to; I just don't know where yet."
In the meantime, he said he "couldn't be more proud" of the work teachers have put into starting the 2019-2020 school year right.
"They have done an awesome job getting the school ready," Sisk said. "As I walk through the classrooms and see the displays and teaching stations that have been created and readied for our students, it demonstrates to me a lot of tremendous hard work."
Students also have a lot of hard work ahead of them, part of the district's commitment to ensuring options for students in education. Limestone County Career Technical Center, which Sisk said also saw a boost in enrollment, added an advanced agriscience program this year, while several high schools expanded their advanced placement, or AP, courses.
Some students were even able to get a head start on the year through a partnership between Limestone County Schools and Calhoun Community College.
"We probably had 20 or 30 students that took English 101 and 102 over the summer," Sisk said. Some of those kids got an early high school credit by going to school this summer, so they could free up a period to take an elective."
With so many jobs coming to Limestone County, Sisk said it's important to him that students are not just on an even playing field but a step above what those jobs may require. He said parents and grandparents often approach him to say they want their school-age descendants to graduate with the ability to work good-paying jobs, raise families and continue living in the same communities they grew up in.
"There are going to be a tremendous amount of jobs in this area," Sisk said. "... It would be disheartening to think our students can't compete for them, so I'm doing everything I can with the generous support of our board to make sure our students have that opportunity. They still have to do the work and master the skills, but it is all about that opportunity.
"We have to give them that."