It was back to school time bright and early this morning in Liberty County. But school leaders aren't sure exactly how many students they'll serve this year. There are more troops at Fort Stewart and more jobs in local industry and the schools hope to hold everyone.
At the back of Mary West's fifth grade classroom, books remain on a few empty desks, but probably not for long. As Liberty County schools kick off the year, enrollment is anything but written in stone and may not be for two or three weeks.
"You have some parents that may still be on vacation and they haven't moved to the area yet," said Dorothy Cottom, principal at Waldo Pafford Elementary School. "We have parents that will still be coming in."
Liberty County opened Waldo Pafford Elementary just four years ago. They're already adding a wing and more classes. Schools like this one are a flurry of construction because there's so much other construction. Subdivisions and apartment complexes are popping up all over the county.
Students could have more classmates as the Army reorganizes and brings more than 1,000 new soldiers to Fort Stewart. That could mean more students, but no one's sure how many.
"We make our best guestimate," said superintendent Dr. Steve Wilmoth. "That's a term around here you get used to because you're guessing what troop movement is going to be and you never know when troops come and go who's going to stay and who goes back home."
Combine that with new industry jobs and the 11,000 student body could grow. Leaders say all they can do is open the doors and see who comes.
Dorothy Cottom says when they get more stable numbers, they'll see how balanced the schools are and if they have big numbers differences between zones, they may be forced to adjust the zone lines and send some students to different schools like they did last year.