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Big Walnut School Bond Issue
Handling Enrollment Increases
BW School District News
The Sunbury News: August 2, 2017
Staff Reports

Handling Enrollment Increases: What’s Ahead for Next School Year

Our district has already experienced the effects of enrollment increases and is preparing for overcrowding this fall as even more students move to our schools over the summer months.

So, what can parents expect with the new school year? Already the district knows some class sizes will be larger when school resumes in August. This is necessary, while not ideal. Larger class sizes make it more difficult for teachers to get one-on-one time with students, which in turn makes it tough to personalize learning for students.

By taking a big-picture look at the district, decisions will be made on whether to bus some students away from their neighborhood elementary schools to another where there may be more space. At this time, this only impacts kindergarten students, but may impact older students as we continue to grow.

We are refurbishing our existing double-classroom trailer at Big Walnut Elementary for use next school year, and we are adding another double-classroom trailer for General Rosecrans Elementary, with many more on the horizon without a permanent fix.

“Although these fixes are not ideal we are doing all we can to fit students into our schools,” said Superintendent Angie Pollock. “Looking ahead, what concerns me is without a long term solution our enrollment projections show that over the next nine years, we would need approximately 67 trailer spaces to serve as classrooms.”

“It’s really difficult to manage spaces when they are overcrowded. There is no room for students to even eat in the cafeteria, and we are holding study hall in the auditorium. That is not an ideal situation for studying, but it is what we have available,” said Carol Burchett, high school Spanish and French teacher.

“With each passing week we only pick up more students,” Pollock said. “With enrollment growth a factor at all levels, we will be asking students and parents to be extra patient next year as there are some definite inconveniences that come with overcrowding.”

Pollock noted that it may take longer to dismiss at the close of the school day and seating and parking for activities such as concerts and plays will continue to be at a premium.

“It’s far from perfect,” said Pollock, “but we are doing all we can to take care of each student.”

...... 

FAQs

Listed below are some of the frequently asked questions we have received lately. Have a question? Send us an email at facilitymatters@bwls.net.

Does the district have land for a new high school?

No. We do not have the funds to purchase the land. That would come as a result of bond issue passage.

Do you know where the new high school will be located?

No. That depends on many market factors, such as sewer lines, pricing and willing sellers. Once we have the funds, we can begin pursuing the land that makes the most sense. Luckily, we have the Facilities Planning Committee to help us with this work, and with assessing land purchases.

Is there a design for the new high school?

No. That requires architectural fees and those are funds we do not have at this time. Once a ballot issue is approved, then we will be in a better position to develop a plan. Any plan that is developed will be with community and staff involvement and it will reflect the needs of Big Walnut, not of any other district. When we arrive at a budget for the building, we will stay within that budget. Our budget is primarily based on the state recommended amount per square foot for the number of students.

Why did Central Office move?

Ultimately because it frees up space and district funds. It was cheaper for us to move than to build classroom space, which is what Central Office was occupying.

I heard that Hylen Souders Elementary has empty classrooms. How can elementary schools be reaching capacity soon, but there are empty classrooms?

There are no empty classrooms at Souders. All classrooms are in use. If anything, we may need to convert a computer lab to regular classroom use. We are also facing the need to move services such as physical and occupational therapy and tutoring from a classroom to hallways to create classroom space.

Single Most Important Issue Facing Schools?

Enrollment, Facilities

Enrollment growth and overcrowding creates definite difficulties in running a school building.

The lack of space creates safety and educational challenges on a day-to-day basis. To address the growth with trailers, or any other temporary fixes, it means that we must divert funds from the operating budget to try to solve them. Those are funds that are otherwise dedicated to the classroom and for our day-to-day operations.

“Short-term fixes place strain on our daily operating budget because we must divert funds in order to help remedy the problem immediately,” stated district superintendent Angie Pollock. “We want greater efficiency in our facilities and we want to protect the educational value we provide to residents but that cannot come through short-term fixes.”

Pollock noted that the district’s tax rate is lower than nearly every other school system in our area. Big Walnut spends less per pupil than the state average and less than most districts around us while providing an excellent educational value.

Board To Pursue Scaled Down Bond Issue

The Big Walnut Local Schools Board of Education is expected to vote on a proposed bond issue this month that will appear on the November 7, 2017 ballot.

The Board spent time following last fall’s ballot issue failure listening to the community’s input about possible solutions to the district’s enrollment growth problem. This included in-person conversations, a community survey, an online questionnaire and the involvement of the district’s community-based Facility Committee.

The Board is expected to vote to approve a scaled-down version of last fall’s bond issue, including a new high school ($87 Million), a new elementary ($16 Million) and the re-purposing of our current high school as a middle school, our current middle school as an intermediate and the current intermediate as an additional elementary school.

This bond issue is expected to include less funds for the existing buildings, with a focus on improving the security of the entries in the five older buildings.

While this millage will not provide enough funds to address many of the older buildings’ needs, it will provide some funds while keeping overall millage down. The Board is also considering adding mills for ongoing Permanent Improvement needs, such as maintaining roofs and heating components.

Getting additional student space is the district’s top priority for the next ballot issue.

“It takes two years to build an elementary school, and even longer for a high school,” stated Superintendent Angie Pollock, “That’s why it is important that we start addressing this now. The growth is already here and the new houses around the district show that it is only expected to continue in a strong and steady way.”

Land purchase expected to be part of the plan

While the district does have two potential sites from developers that would accommodate an elementary school, it does not currently own land for a new high school. There simply are not extra funds in the existing budget to purchase that land now; any land purchase would need to occur once a bond issue is passed.

“Our Facilities Committee has studied potential options,” stated Pollock. “And we even have a few in mind, but making those public at this point would be premature, and could only serve to potentially drive up the purchase price. That would hurt not only the district, but ultimately our taxpayers.

“There are a lot of decisions that go into determining a good piece of property, including having a willing seller at a fair price,” Pollock continued. “We have a few sites in mind, but a lot can happen between now and when we obtain the funds.”

The Facilities Committee, made up of local experts in construction and other areas, is vital to planning when it comes to determining what is needed and what is most important. It is common for questions to arise when a community has schools with major needs. Anyone having questions should direct those to the Superintendent’s Office.

Information for this story was provided by the May Eagle Examiner newsletter.
Full article available here



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Community for Eagle Pride
Sherri Dorsch, Treasurer
7730 Plumb Road
Galena, Ohio 43021
Big Walnut School Bond Issue
Community for Eagle Pride
Sherri Dorsch, Treasurer
7730 Plumb Road
Galena, Ohio 43021