HARTSELLE — Industrial growth in Morgan and Limestone counties that is expected to generate almost 10,000 jobs is already impacting Hartselle City Schools, city and school officials said Friday.
Superintendent Dee Dee Jones said enrollment is up by almost 200 students and she has a stack of out-of-district student requests to consider before classes resume in August.
Jones said a lot of the students who have registered are with families moving to Hartselle from out-of-state because they have some kind of job connected to an existing industry or a job associated with the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant under construction in the Huntsville-annexed portion of Limestone County.
Hartselle had 3,360 students registered as of July 11. This time last year, the district had about 3,172 students registered for classes.
RaJane Hampton, a real-estate broker who co-owns United Country-Four Oaks Realty & Auction, said her last three home sales in Hartselle have been to out-of-state families who were moving because of some kind of industrial connection.
“A lot of families are moving here to support existing industries or because of the Mazda Toyota plant,” she said. “Right now, we have a housing shortage in Hartselle.”
Hampton said one of the three homes she sold had eight offers in six hours and sold to a family with school-age children.
City Planner Jeremy Griffith said in the past two decades, the city has approved 1,028 lots for home construction and 174 remain vacant. He said developments are in various stages that will make available another 400 lots.
“In general the economy is better, but contractors are doing a lot of speculative building because of the industrial growth, especially the Toyota Mazda plant,” Griffith said.
He said one of the planned developments is near Interstate 65, which makes it easier for workers to commute to jobs in the industrial growth areas outside Hartselle’s city limits.
Mayor Randy Garrison said the school system is Hartselle’s greatest asset, and he’s not surprised it’s attracting families from out-of-state.
According to census estimates, Hartselle added 41 residents from 2017 to 2018 to grow to 14,425. The city had 14,255 residents in 2010.
School enrollment, however, increased for residential and non-residential students. Hartselle had about 500 out-of-district students a decade ago, but that number increased to 703 last year. Jones said the system currently has 688 out-of-district students registered, but she expects this number to increase “as we process more applications.”
She said enrollment is up in every school and has forced the district to add an additional kindergarten teacher at Barkley Bridge Elementary. Jones said Crestline Elementary also will likely need another teacher.
Six years ago, Hartselle divided its students in grades 5-8 and placed grades 5 and 6 at Hartselle Intermediate and kept grades 7 and 8 at Hartselle Junior High. This year, enrollment in both schools is above 500 for the first time.
“We’re monitoring enrollment daily and figuring out where additional teachers may be needed,” the superintendent said.
Jones said the district has a plan to accommodate growth, but added that there may be some last-minute teacher hires so that classes are not overcrowded.
“We’re going to maintain the quality of education Hartselle has always offered,” she said.