BW talks options to handle growth


SUNBURY — A creative solution was proposed to address overcrowding in the Big Walnut Local School District at the most recent Board of Education meeting.

“Everyone is aware our district is growing,” Superintendent Ryan McLane said on Feb. 16 in the Big Walnut High School Auditorium. “You don’t have to drive around very far to see the houses that are popping up. Years ago, a plan was developed that would redistrict the elementary school boundaries. Kindergarten through fourth grade teachers would be pulled from around the district to open a new elementary school at the old intermediate building 105 Baughman St. Some of you know that as the old, old high school.”

McLane was formerly principal at Big Walnut Intermediate School in that building.

“It wasn’t in good shape then — it’s not any better now,” he said. “By implementing this redistricting plan, it would open up an additional elementary school as well as free up space at each existing elementary building. If we were to renovate that building like we did the current middle school/the old high school, the cost would have been approximately $15 million … in order to just make the necessary repairs to get that building open, we’re looking at approximately $3 million. Our entire budget for building maintenance and repairs for the entire district is about $1.4 million a year. The earliest this plan would take place will be for the 2024-2025 school year, about 18 months from now.”

To avoid overcrowding at the elementaries, McLane and the ad hoc Facilities Committee came up with a different recommendation than fixing up that old building.

“So instead of redistricting, I recommend we change the grade bands in our schools,” he said. “The Early Learning Center would remain at Harrison Street; however, our elementary buildings would become K-3, BWI would become a 4-5 building, and Big Walnut Middle School would house grades 6-8. This will allow us to free up three to four classrooms in each elementary school while at the same time allow us to better utilize the space at the middle school. This is the most cost-effective option we have.”

Currently, Big Walnut Elementary has 394 students, its highest in recent history; General Rosecrans Elementary is at 339 students (539 in 2019-2020); Hylen Souders Elementary is at 373 students (down one from a few years ago); and Prairie Run Elementary is at 470 (down from 494). Ideally, classroom size is 25 students per class in elementary schools.

“The most growth we are seeing will feed into GRE,” McLane said.

While not a permanent solution, McLane said the grade changes would buy the district another year in terms of enrollment. In addition, the district isn’t able to do anything else sooner.

“At some point, we will have to have serious discussions about 105 Baughman St. — how we’re going to fund the renovations or discuss building additional buildings.”

No action was taken on the matter.

During his report, McLane also said next week is FFA week, and student board representative Sophia Erndt added that four FFA members participated successfully in the state finals.

McLane thanked the district’s school resource officers from the Sunbury Police Department and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. He asked the board to make the Sunbury SRO a full-time position, which they did. McLane said an additional county SRO could come on board in the 2023-2024 school year. In a related matter, he said the district has received a grant of about $350,000 from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission “to improve the safety and security of our buildings.”

Treasurer Darren Jenkins said the district has received 15 new public records requests over the last 30 days, with two additional over the last day. Eight had come from a single individual. The process is labor-intensive and cost intensive, Jenkins said. For example, four previous requests cost the district $6,800, which go into the tens of thousands. Due to the increase in requests, a form will now need to be filled out by those who are making them.

Students recognized by the board included:

• Theodore Dancer, BWHS Art Student of the Month

• Kai Lindesmith, BWE Art Student of the Month

• Danielle Maynard, BWHS Student of the Month

• Lily McIntire, BWE Student of the Month.

In business matters, the board unanimously raised the pay for substitute teachers from $100 to $150 per day, effective March 1. It was hoped the increase would help address a shortage of substitute teachers.

During the board member comment portion of the meeting, one complained about pornography permeating culture and the district; while another said they weren’t hearing anything about this from students themselves.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, four people spoke. One said the “learning challenged” vision of the National School Board Leadership Council (an organization supported by some board members over the Ohio School Board Association) violates the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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