The Southwest Licking school board Thursday decided to ask voters to approve a bond issue for a new high school to solve overcrowding issues at Watkins Memorial High School.

The Southwest Licking school board Thursday decided to ask voters to approve a bond issue for a new high school to solve overcrowding issues at Watkins Memorial High School.

Exactly what will appear on the ballot hasn't been determined, though.

School board member Roger Zeune said the board wants the administration to research the costs for four options: a school that would hold 1,450 students, a school that would hold 1,450 students with the option to expand to 1,600 students, a school that would hold 1,450 students with the option to expand to 1,800 students and a school that would house 1,600 students.

The results of the research will help the board determine what to put on the ballot.

In March, voters rejected Issue 16 -- a 0.25-percent income tax combined with a 7.5-mill bond issue for 28 years.

This time, though, the board has decided not to use an income tax.

Superintendent Forest Yocum said the district needs another school building. He said the incoming eighth-grade class is 25 students larger than the 2008 graduating class, putting more strain on the already-crowded building.

"That's a jump without anyone even moving into the community," he said.

This year, about 1,100 students attended Watkins Memorial High School, accounting for about a third of all students in the district.

"We are going to look at the prices and see," Zeune said.

Yocum said the current high school building is only supposed to house 900 students. He said the district had taken a "Band-Aid" approach since the March ballot issue's failure.

The district has "walled in" portions of the high school's hallways to construct makeshift classrooms, and some teachers are using closet space for planning periods.

"The need has not gone away," Yocum said. "The need is still there even though it is a very poor time."

Zeune said overcrowding in schools could cause harm to the learning environment.

"I think anything that is overcrowded is not comfortable," he said. "Too many people in one space is just not a good idea, no matter what it is."

Yocum said the proposed school would be located centrally -- north of U.S. Route. 40, south of state Route 16, east of state Route 310 and west of York Road.

He said a new school would need to hold about 1,450 students and be built so that an additional wing could be added when needed.

Yocum said if the November ballot fails, the district will be forced to find another way of scheduling students for years to come.

"Obviously, it's going to have to be creative scheduling," he said.

Zeune said he is optimistic about the fall levy.

"We have had a committee out there, and we have done a lot of polling and surveys," he said. "We feel we are going in the direction the community wants to go. I'm very optimistic."

Roger Zeune

Forest Yocum