Ground was broken Thursday afternoon on former farmland that will become the Olentangy Local School District’s fourth high school.

School officials, builders and guests that included the previous property owners attended a ceremony at the future site of the yet-to-be-named school in Berlin Township, east of Gregory Road on Berlin Station Road.

“As we begin to embark on the building and opening of this new, state-of-the-art facility, we will face both exciting milestones and challenging times as we prepare to select the leaders of the school, the building’s name, the colors, the mascot,” Superintendent Mark T. Raiff said. “And most importantly, we will select the students who will attend this school, build its own unique traditions and establish yet another school community that will excel.”

Olentangy has been the fastest growing district in the state of Ohio for the last 15 years, said spokeswoman Krista Davis. The three existing high schools are designed to educate 4,800 students, but enrollment projections suggest there will be 6,600 students by the 2018-19 school year.

Voters in March approved a no-new-millage bond issue to fund construction of the fourth high school, estimated to cost $69.6 million. The school should open in the fall of 2018.

“We plan to be good neighbors. We’ll keep the dust down,” said Bob Sewell, vice president of Gilbane Building Co., which will build the school.

Fanning/Howey Associates is the architect for the new high school, and designs were shown at the groundbreaking. The 303,000 square-foot high school is said to be similar to Orange High School, but more open in some of its interior.

During the 2016-17 school year, the superintendent will look at the district’s attendance boundaries and decide which students will be assigned to the new high school. Raiff, who is no stranger to redistricting, has previously made a decision that he said affected the least number of students.

Also during the 2016-17 school year, the name of the new school may be determined. Community input is sought, but the school board will make the final decision. The board’s policy “requires that the district’s schools have names based on local geography with no proper names and no directional names (north, south, east, west); and mascot names are to be based on local historical figures, groups or animals with no proper names and no directional names.”

In his comments, Raiff noted that there was formerly a school in the area known as the Berlin Bears.

“Building 23 schools in the past 25 years is no small feat,” said board president Dave King. “See you here again in August 2018.”

Olentangy school board members stand in front of shovels they used to ceremonially break ground on the fourth high school. school board members stand in front of shovels they used to ceremonially break ground on the fourth high school.

Gary Budzak | The Gazette

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.