With 15 elementary schools already in the Olentangy Local School District, it appears that number will grow larger in the near future. The OLSD Board of Education met last week to discuss, among other things, the increasingly pressing need for more elementary classroom space.
According to 2017 projections presented by Sharon Jurawitz, facilities committee chairperson, zero classrooms will be available by the 2020-21 school year, and there will be a deficit in available space by the 2021-22 year. Enrollment in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade has increased by over 700 students since the last elementary school was opened in 2012, and projections predict an increase of over 1,850 more students over the next 10 years.
Jurawitz said the ideal student to teacher ratio for the district is 24:1, which it will be under in the upcoming school year. However, the increase in enrollment will push the ratios of all grades, pre-K through 5, over the intended mark by 2018-19. That ration will only get worse without the addition of new classrooms, she said.
“We’ve kind of been predicting this day is coming, and we have been working very hard to find different ways to accommodate the growth in elementary schools,” Jurawitz told the board.
Several options have been considered, according to Jurawitz, including increasing the student to teacher ratios, finding an existing building to use for pre-K, or the use of modulars. She voiced concerns over limitations of buildings used specifically as preschools, as well as safety concerns surrounding the use of modulars.
The two other options considered, and most likely to be the district’s solutions, is to add on to existing elementary buildings, as well as build new elementary schools.
Projected costs of a six-classroom addition to three different existing elementary schools range from $3.42 million to $3.47 million per addition, an average of $574,000 per classroom. Jurawitz said the district currently has the funds to be able to afford three new additions as it stands now.
Three different plans for brand new schools were also discussed. Among them was a building very similar to other elementary buildings that have been built in the district, which hold 29 classrooms. That type of building is expected to cost over $18.3 million. Building a new school with a six-room “connector” to a middle school was another proposed option.
The third option discussed is taking the “box” design of recent elementary schools and “stretching” it out enough to fit six more classrooms into it. With 35 classrooms at an average of $562,000 per room, it would be the lowest average per classroom of the three proposed solutions for new schools.
Jurawitz said the idea of adding six more classrooms to the current design used for elementary schools would need to be “massaged out a little bit, but we know that it could work.”
Under the proposed option, the three, six-room additions to current buildings would be completed in 2019. In 2022, the first of the two new, 35-room elementary schools would be built. The second new building would be built in 2026. Levies would be needed in 2020 and again in 2024 to fund the new schools. The three additions proposed for 2019 wouldn’t require any additional funding.
Locations being considered for the new elementary schools are district-owned land on Bean Oller Road, Bunty Station Road, Curve Road, and a location adjacent to Berkshire Middle School.
Existing elementary schools that will be considered for additions are Alum Creek, Arrowhead, Wyandot Run, Indian Springs and Cheshire Elementary School.
While Jurawitz suggested those locations would be considered first because of the projected increase in residents in those areas over the next several years, she said they aren’t the only district-owned properties that are possibilities. Board member Roger Bartz suggested the Curve Road location not be considered due to the absence of any utilities already in place, and the significant increase in costs doing so would add to the build.
Board member Julie Wagner Feasel asked Jurawitz if the additions and new buildings would be the end, to which Jurawitz simply and firmly replied, “no.” Jurawitz cited the estimated number of housing starts in the district and suggested the number of elementary schools would max out at over 22 schools, based on the 29-room school, but suggested that number could come down with the increase of classrooms in the new buildings.
Jurawitz asked that a decision on the three elementary additions be made soon if the district is to have any hope of finishing them in 2019. Some type of initial action is expected at the next meeting on June 14.