The Buckeye Valley Local Schools Bus Garage and practice field (on right) Friday morning. During the Buckeye Valley Board of Education meeting Wednesday, the board discussed building a new high school where the bus garage is currently. If the plan is approved, the current high school would become a middle school, and the current middle school would be reconfigured as an intermediate school serving fifth and sixth graders.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

The Buckeye Valley Local Schools Board of Education reviewed plans Wednesday evening to address the growing population in the district and discussed the possibility of a bond issue to build a new high school.

During the presentation, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Froehlich outlined population projections in the district and said that over the next 10 years, West Elementary will gain about 25 students; East Elementary will gain about 45 students; Buckeye Valley Middle School will gain about 120 students; and Buckeye Valley High School is projected to grow by about 200 students.

A Facilities Advisory Committee has been meeting regularly since February to develop long-term courses of action to address population and overcrowding in the district, and the committee presented four courses of action to the board during Wednesday’s meeting.

The courses of action presented to the district included additions at Buckeye Valley East and West elementaries; building a new elementary school; building an intermediate school for fifth/sixth grade students; and building a new high school. All four plans would require a levy to be approved by voters, the committee reported.

The fourth option was the course of action recommended by the committee, which would involve building a new high school on the central campus that would accommodate 1,200 students, repurposing the current high school into a middle school for seventh and eighth grade students, and using the current middle school as an intermediate school for fifth and sixth grade students as well as a preschool building as needed.

The tentative location for the new high school would be the area of the current bus garage, central office and practice field, all of which would be relocated. The new school would also include a new physical education/field house at the north end of the football field, but Superintendent Paul Craft noted the field house may not be part of the bond issue.

The committee reported that the advantage of the plan is that it adds the most capacity to the district; impacts nearly all Buckeye Valley families; brings the central office team together under one roof instead of three; and would add parking, an auditorium, and two gym spaces to the central campus.

The committee added it conducted a forum with staff as well as one with parents and community members, and the fourth plan was overwhelmingly the most popular with participants.

The disadvantage of the plan, the committee noted, is that it is the most expensive plan. Craft said the district would have to use a bond levy to raise the funds and anticipated the new school would cost “every bit of $100 million.”

“Let’s get it right,” Craft said. “We are not going to bring something forward that does not get us through a 10-15 year period that we feel really confident about.”

Craft said it will be at least three years until the plan will put students in new classrooms, and the district has a number of options it can implement in the meantime to create more classroom space.

Craft recommended the board think about the options for the next month and have a discussion about it at the Oct. 18 meeting. He said the next steps will be to have an architect determine scope, cost estimates, and work with the Delaware County auditor to determine the levy’s millage requirements. Craft said the board will have to vote to place the bond levy on the ballot no less than 90 days prior to an election, and he estimated at least 18 months from ground breaking to occupancy.

Craft added the timing makes getting the bond issue on the March 2024 primary election possible, but the district can also wait and place it on the November 2024 general election ballot.

Board President Donald Dicke said the new facility will “be impressive and make a statement to the rest of the area.”

“I’m pretty excited about this,” Dicke said. “I was skeptical when I first got on this … but as we started getting into this and looking at the reality of this, I’m really excited as a parent and a taxpayer. I think it’s something that’s really going to benefit the district and benefit our students.”

Board member April Scowden recommended acting sooner rather than later because costs only continue to rise.

“The longer we wait, the more it’s going to be,” she said.

The board will meet next at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Buckeye Valley High School.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.