New high school taking shape


SUNBURY — Progress continues on the new high school, the Big Walnut Board of Education was told during a recent meeting.

Director of Facilities Doug Swartz said, “The high school, the big jewel, is coming out of the ground. The biggest thing people can see is that we’re painting walls” in one of the wings. He said they were also on track to get all the roofing done.

Swartz said work was continuing at the athletic sites and that despite weather delays, they were still on schedule, with the bulk of the work being done in the spring. He said Athletic Director Brian Shelton is seeking sponsorship to subsidize windscreens at some of the fields.

Later, an amended design agreement with VSWC Architects for a new driveway at the new elementary and high school was approved by a majority vote of the board.

Volunteer Joey Thomas was praised for a drone video he made of the construction site. The video can be viewed on the district’s website at

Board member Sherri Dorsch said the video has amped up excitement among future students.

“Now that Prairie Run Elementary is up and running, the construction crew is working hard to complete the new high school building and facilities,” said the district’s website. “Our anticipated opening will be after winter break during the 2021-22 school year.”

Also at the two-hour meeting on Feb. 18:

• Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper discussed staffing projections based on 250 new homes with families in the district. Cooper said Big Walnut had to cut 46 positions during the 2009 recession, and all were needed. “That was devastating to the district, and we’ve grown 150 kids a year since then,” he said.

Cooper said enrollment next year is estimated at 4,368 with it going above 5,000 students in 2028-2029. To support health concerns, the district is hoping to add four nurses (six total) and counselors over the next ten years, he said. He also spoke of adding instructional coaches and adding diversity to library collections.

• Director of Academic Achievement Jen Young said ACT testing for juniors will take place at the high school in June instead of offsite due to the pandemic. She also said winter registration for kindergarten was high at 214, and families are moving into the district.

• Annie Clark, principal of Big Walnut Elementary, said her goal is to improve students’ reading ability, and they are on track despite the coronavirus. BWE teachers also discussed the kindness projects all students do, with proceeds going to a grant fund. Despite COVID-19, BWE has done six kindness projects this school year. These projects let the children learn life skills while helping community organizations, the board was told.

• The board approved an agreement with Triad Architects for the BWE school roof replacement project.

• Two students were recognized as Big Walnut Students of the Month at the meeting: Adrian Riffle, of Big Walnut Elementary, and Madailein Watters, of Big Walnut High School.

• Student Board Representative Jacob Ross said there will be a Unity Week in April at the high school, spring sports are underway, and options are being considered for prom.

• Superintendent Angie Hamberg said staff had received their first COVID-19 vaccination doses at a clinic. She thanked the Delaware Public Health District and the Olentangy Local School District, saying it is nice to be in a county where everyone works together.

• The board approved hiring a staff-recommended substitute custodian who can work at different buildings due to currently overworked staff. Also approved were updated employment policies, and financial information to submit to the county auditor.

The front entry of the new high school as seen from the student dining area. front entry of the new high school as seen from the student dining area. Courtesy | BWLS

The front view of the new Big Walnut High School as seen in a photo taken this month. front view of the new Big Walnut High School as seen in a photo taken this month. Courtesy | BWLS

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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