Growing numbers challenge staff

Nina Quiles, Managing Director

Enrollment at FHS increased by 100 students this year, and guidance is struggling to keep the class sizes low.
FHS currently has 1,320 students, with a max capacity of 1,400 students. In comparison, Liberty’s enrollment is in the low 1,200s and Kettle Run is hovering around 1,220. According to guidance department head Mark Bjorkman, the current population and the future growth is manageable, but challenging. This increase in the student population is the result of a large freshmen class of 370, compared to 310 last year, along with 60 transfer students, according to Bjorkman.
“It’s a culture shock to jump up that big of a number of students,” Bjorkman said. “We were surprised by the difference from last year. Going up by 100 students is a lot.”
In addition to balancing the enrollment for mandatory, advanced placement and elective classes, guidance faces the challenge of continuing to offer classes with low enrollment. When a class has low enrollment, guidance has to decide whether or not to cut the class, continue it, or attempt to combine two low enrollment classes together. When an AP class is overfilled, guidance splits it into two different periods; however, as students drop the class, the two separate classes may become too small, which complicates the process.
Classrooms were built for about 25 students; however, several classes have nearly 30 students. AP Government teacher David Smith is managing the increased class size; however, it does present challenges that would be helped with larger classrooms, like in the annex.
“It’s very difficult to have student interaction in such a large class,” Smith said. “They’re just not laid out for it. It doesn’t really bother me; I just wish I could do more with the students.”
The increased class size caused teachers to hunt for extra desks and chairs, while students struggled through the halls and stairwells or had difficulty grabbing a good seat in class. Spanish teacher Archer Gilliam has classes of around 26 students and said that it’s hard to give individual attention to students.
“However, here we’ve got A+ time that people can come for extra help,” Gilliam said. “That can kind of counteracts the negative effect of a large class size.”
Some transfer students elect to enroll at FHS and pay the tuition to attend in order to get a better curriculum with more electives. Junior Caleb Rogers transferred to FHS after previously attending public and private schools.
“I already had friends here, so it was easier,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot more people here and more classes you can take here than at prep school.”
Once the student’s application is accepted, the annual tuition to attend FHS as a transfer student who doesn’t live in Fauquier County is around $8,000. Junior Alice Maley transferred from Rappahannock County where she lives.
“[Fauquier] is a new opportunity, a new home,” Maley said. “It’s a new place to get started on the right foot.”
Junior Sarah Toothman transferred from Wakefield Country Day, and freshman Riley Oare transferred from Highland Middle School. Both live in Fauquier County and wanted to attend a larger school while experiencing new beginnings.
“[FHS] is much bigger but it’s really fun because I get to see the different types of people,” Oare said. “Everybody here is so nice; I don’t know a lot of people in my class, but it’s kind of cool because I’ll get to meet new people all throughout the year.”