The Olentangy Board of Education recently approved two measures related to the building of the school district’s fourth high school.
First was the purchase of soil-boring services from Professional Services Industries Inc. at a cost that may exceed $25,000. Second was a contract to Gilbane Building Co. for construction manager at-risk services. Gilbane was one of four vendors who were scored by the district’s facilities committee in January.
In March, voters approved a levy for the district, which in part will allow the district to build and staff a fourth high school at an estimated cost of $68 million. The district has already purchased land along Berlin Station Road north of Cheshire Elementary School for the future high school.
“We should have started the conversation about high school four in 2010,” said Superintendent Mark T. Raiff, in a district “Coffee Chat” given earlier this year. “But at that time, we were in a recession, and growing by a thousand kids a year.”
Enrollment is the reason for adding another high school, Raiff said. For years, Olentangy has been the fastest-growing district in the state.
“We were also trying to see how big these schools could get, and not affect the experience. We hadn’t gone past that 1,600 (enrollment) number. Liberty last year was 1,987 kids and we didn’t hear a peep. It’s 2,068 this year, and the wheels are falling off. There’s a tipping point.”
Raiff said the district has tried to stretch the capacity of the high schools by having STEM classes at the Olentangy Academy, offering English online, and dual enrollment classes at Columbus State Community College. While some students have opted for these programs, it hasn’t been enough to offset the growing enrollment. He felt that 2,000 to 2,100 students was the maximum number of students the high schools could hold.
“We know for the next 39 years, we’re going to have over 6,600 high school kids,” Raiff said. “For 15 of those years, we’re going to have over 7,200 high school kids. If you divide that by three, it’s 2,400 minimum.”
Among the other options discussed was adding on to the high schools. However Orange is landlocked.
“That means we’ve got to add an additional 400 at Olentangy and Liberty. Now you’re talking 2,800 students.”
In other action, the board has approved:
• Selling three parcels of land totaling one-tenth of an acre along Bale Kenyon Road to construct a bike path at Freedom Trail Elementary for $5,638. The township is acting on behalf of Delaware County commissioners. One of the clauses states that if the county’s offer to acquire the land was not accepted or an agreement can’t be reached, “the county has the right to file suit to acquire the parcels by eminent domain.”
• A drainage easement and land transfer agreement at Cheshire Elementary.
• A contract with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center for pre-employment drug-screening services.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.