OLSD could face classroom shortage in 2021-22

By Joshua Keeran - [email protected]

A new elementary school or two could be on the horizon for the Olentangy Local School District if enrollment continues on its current path over the next 10 years for one of Ohio’s largest school districts.

During the Nov. 9 Olentangy Board of Education meeting, Sharon Jurawitz, a member of the Olentangy Facilities Committee, rolled out the district’s projected enrollment numbers for the next decade which anticipates the student body will increase by 3,677 students from 20,983 (current enrollment) to 24,660 for the 2027-2028 school year.

Unanimously approved by the BOE, the enrollment projections, Jurawitz said, were calculated for the second straight year using the housing model. This year’s model, she added, is based on 750 single-family building permits (up from 600 last year) issued within the district and 150 non-single family new units (down from 200 in 2016).

While school officials noted the enrollment numbers are projections only and various measures like a downturn in the economy could change the numbers, the district has to assume the number of students enrolled in the district will continue to rise.

The largest growth is expected to involve elementary-aged students (grades K-5), which if the numbers hold up, could see an increase in 1,805 pupils over the next 10 years.

“The report shows we are projecting to be out of elementary classroom space in 2021,” Superintendent Mark Raiff said.

According to the information presented by Jurawitz, taking into account preK classrooms, the district currently has 449 elementary classrooms at its disposal, and for the 2018-2019 school year, all but 14 of them will be used.

Come the 2020-21 school year, however, the projections show all elementary school classrooms will be in use, and by the 2021-22 school year, the district will be short eight classrooms.

By the 2027-28 school year, the number of additional elementary classrooms needed to house the student population is expected to balloon to 57.

Raiff said there are several options the district could examine, like increasing class sizes or building on additional classrooms to current elementary buildings, but as he and several board members hinted at, the answer to a lack of classroom space could be building a 16th and maybe even a 17th elementary school building within the district.

“It is on our radar … something we will have to address,” Board President Roger Bartz said.

Outlook for other grades

With the district’s fourth high school (Berlin) set to open next school year, Jurawitz informed the board the high schools appear to be able to handle the projected increase of 1,194 students over the next 10 years.

While the district has set the capacity at each high school at 1,800 students or 7,200 total districtwide, the projections show the district could be over capacity in 2026-2027 (7,248 students) and 2027-28 (7,422), but the Facilities Committee believes it’s manageable.

“We don’t have any area in the next 10 years that we are concerned about at this point (at the high school level),” Jurawitz said. “We feel that the capacity is adequate, especially with the new high school opening next year.

“There will be some stress on the high schools beginning in 2026-27, but as we know, we know that the high schools can fit more than the 1,800 students that we have as our capacity limit for those schools,” she said.

As for the district’s five middle schools, they appear to have more than enough classroom space to house the projected population growth in grades sixth through eighth over the next 10 years.

The data shows that when the 2018-2019 school year begins next fall, the district expects to have 43 extra classrooms available at the middle school level, and by the time the 2027-2028 school year rolls around, the projections show 16 extra classrooms still available.

“Overall, our middle schools have enough room for capacity and classrooms,” Jurawitz said. “We do think that maybe some individual middle schools might have more of a stress than others, so we need to look at that.”

By Joshua Keeran

[email protected]

Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.

Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.