Sutton Middle School is adding eight temporary classrooms in anticipation of the higher number of students expected to attend the school this year.
Keith Bromery, a spokesman for Atlanta Public Schools, said a projected 1,300 plan to attend the Buckhead middle school in August.
The projection follows a growth trend the school has seen over the past several years, with enrollment increasing by about 100 students each year. Last school year, enrollment was 1,199. The previous year, it was 1,047, Bromery said.
Bromery said the school system believes there are several factors that could explain the growth.
Among them is a positive reputation in the community that could have more families choosing to keep their children in public schools rather than going to private schools.
“People just tend to be attracted to that school,” Bromery said. “They’re retaining more students. People talk about the strength of the (International Baccalaureate) program. They seem to appreciate that program and what it means for their kids.”
The International Baccalaureate is a program that focuses on foreign language and international education as well as rigorous testing standards.
Bromery said Sutton Middle School, along with its feeder elementary schools and North Atlanta High School, represent a “cluster” of schools that offer international baccalaureate programming from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“Parents, especially in that neighborhood, look for schools that have a proven quality to them. They look at test scores, the academic programs they have there,” Bromery said. “That school, that cluster of schools, from elementary to middle on up to high school, are attractive to people in that area of Atlanta.”
Bromery said the school system believes many Buckhead families may be choosing to put their children at Sutton instead of area private schools.
“The principal tells me she gets inquiries regularly from people who send their kids to charter schools and private schools. … They end up, in many instances, enrolling,” Bromery said. “It perhaps leads some to say, why should I pay tuition when I can get quality education for what I pay taxes for?”
Sutton Middle School will be crowded until the school system completes a new Buckhead high school.
In May, Atlanta Public Schools purchased 56.6 acres of land currently owned by IBM for $55.3 million. The school system will build a new high school to replace North Atlanta High School. The newly refurbished North Atlanta High School will be converted to a middle school for the area.
The new high school is scheduled to open in August 2013, the school system said.
Reide Onley, co-president of the Sutton Middle School Parent Teacher Association, said parents realize that the situation is temporary.
“The over-crowding, we’re dealing with it, we’re handling it and I think once the new high school is built this will all go away,” Onley said.
Onley said the biggest concern in the coming year is parking. Temporary classrooms will be remove some areas that were being used for parking during concerts at nearby Chastain Park Amphitheater.
“We’re losing parking space and we’re probably going to be forced into one of those lots …. typically used for concert parking,” Onley said. “It’s about a 300 yard walk to Sutton. It could promote some unsafe opportunities for our students and teachers walking to and from school.”
But Onley said overall, the community feels very positive about the growing school.
“This summer I’ve run into a lot of parents …. I see a lot of parents that are excited about coming to Sutton that are sixth grade parents coming up,” Onley said. “It is truly a community school. We’ve got a lot of opportunities and a lot of intangible amenities right here at our finger tips in our own community school system. I’m surprised the numbers aren’t bigger, we’ve got a lot of good things going on.”