Enrollment in North Georgia's public schools remained a mixed bag a month into the school year.
Head counts show Catoosa County and the city systems in Chickamauga and Dalton all gained students while schools in Dade, Walker and Whitfield counties lost a few. Records show enrollment changes ranged from a decline of 1.3 percent in Dade County to a 2.5 percent increase in Chickamauga's small system.
Catoosa's 16 schools gained the greatest number of students at 138, with the most growth in grade levels, spokeswoman Marissa Brower said.
"Overall, we have a little over 160 new students (compared to counts at the end of last school year), but the classes where we have seen the most change are kindergarten and ninth grade," Ms. Brower said.
School officials noted a high local birth rate in 2004 so they were ready when the large kindergarten contingent hit this year, she said. Ninth-grade growth apparently stems from increasing county population, she said.
Chickamauga had the greatest percentage increase, with 33 new students, but spokeswoman Jenny Vowell said it was no surprise.
"Being so close to the Tennessee border, Chickamauga provides easy access for families to live in Georgia, enroll their children in a high-performing small school system and still make the commute to downtown Chattanooga reasonably," Ms. Vowell said.
She said it's possible the economy and housing crisis in the Atlanta area has forced some families to move to North Georgia where it's cheaper to live.
Increased enrollment numbers won't force any changes, officials say.
Deana Farmer, spokeswoman for Dalton Public Schools, said the system added two prekindergarten classes at City Park School that account for about 40 of the system's additional 125 students, she said.
Aside from that addition, "student enrollment is about 1.5 percent more as compared to this same time last year," Ms. Farmer said.
"If our multi-year enrollment trend holds, the total student enrollment will begin to decline about mid-October," she said. End-of-year figures typically are lower than the beginning, she said.
Whitfield's enrollment remains steady after initial August head counts showed a drop of about 76 students from a year ago, said spokesman Eric Beavers.
Even with more than 13,000 students in 21 schools, enrollment only varied by three children since Aug. 20, Mr. Beavers said. Officials believe enrollment growth has hit a plateau, he said.
Dade Superintendent Patty Priest said the four-school system's head counts are dipping because of a changing population.
"I think Dade County is becoming a retirement community because our enrollment has continued to drop over the last 5 years," Ms. Priest said.
Walker County's half-percent decline among its 14 schools reflects people leaving the county in search of jobs, said Director of Personnel Craig Davoulas. The economy has driven student and county populations down, he said.