School board studying enrollment

The Big Walnut Local School District has been in growth mode for at least the past decade. Everyone has known that the growth bubble that impacted the Olentangy School District is swelling upwards into Big Walnut; and the Robert Weiler Company has had the 1,300 single-family home NorthStar development in Berkshire and Kingston townships on the books for almost a decade.

With rapid growth on the doorstep, Big Walnut has had enrollment studies completed in the past, with low, medium and high student population projections. The District is currently under the umbrella of a 2007 enrollment study that retires in 2017. But the District is also already operating at the high end of student population estimates contained in that 2007 study, even with the 2008 implosion of the residential housing mortgage market and subsequent recession.

Add to the above, development at the I-71 Interchange and annexations west of Sunbury slated for residential development that were unknowns when the last enrollment study was completed, and it was no surprise during last Thursday evening’s Board of Education meeting when District Superintendent Angie Pollock announced that a new enrollment study is almost complete.

“Even though the current enrollment study was due to retire in 2017, we decided to do it early because of all the new development,” Pollock said.

Tracey Healey of FutureThink, formerly DeJong-Healey, authors of the 2007 enrollment study, is tasked with completing the 2015 study, Pollock said.

District Treasurer Terri Day said the District would like to get local fire departments, police, library, townships and villages involved to help plan for residential growth coming down the proverbial pike.

“It’s important to have a two-way conversation with all parties involved,” Day said. “That helps us plan for students that are coming our way, and helps get the word out and keeps everyone else informed about what we’re doing.”

Board member Brad Schneider, who serves as a liaison between the School District and the Village of Sunbury Planning & Zoning Commission, said School District growth has been discussed during zoning meetings.

“It was a hot topic of conversation at the last Sunbury Zoning Commission meeting,” Schneider said. “When the next school building is going to have to be built.”

During the Treasurer’s report Day said the District is ahead overall from last year in revenue.

“Everything is up a little,” Day said. “Local money is up, state dollars are up a little bit, expenses were lower than estimated.”

Board members approved a bond refunding. Day said the refunding was an opportunity to save taxpayers $533,000 over the life of the 2004 and 2009 bonds.

In other business, Pollock said 2015-16 Waiver Days (used for curriculum and professional development) would be Monday, September 21 (Fair Day), and Monday, November 30 (last day of Thanksgiving break).

“We’re allowed five Waiver Days but we only applied for three last year,” Pollock said. “We’re going to limit it to two days this year. They are already on the 2015-16 schedule but are tentative; they have to be approved by the Ohio Department of Education.”