Modular classrooms would be a one-time purchase, as opposed to reopening a building that would require a staff and constant upkeep, according to Southwest Licking Superintendent Forest Yocum.

Modular classrooms would be a one-time purchase, as opposed to reopening a building that would require a staff and constant upkeep, according to Southwest Licking Superintendent Forest Yocum.

Yocum said an appointed superintendent's committee could recommend the purchase of one or more modular classrooms to accommodate a growing student body. The school board should hear a report from the committee by the board's February meeting, at the latest.

Yocum said a modular structure would cost the district roughly $80,000 to $100,000 and require minimal upkeep once installed. He said they are a "one-time expense."

He said he believes many people will question purchasing modular classrooms after the district shut down the kindergarten center - a building full of unused classrooms - last summer as part of an effort to cut $2 million from the district budget.

"That vacant building saves us more than $200,000 per year," Yocum said.

Treasurer Richard Jones said the savings are $270,000 per year.

Yocum said closing the kindergarten center permitted the district to eliminate a building principal, secretarial staff and one kindergarten bus route and reduce the custodial staff, "which is a significant financial savings."

He said closing the kindergarten center was not his personal decision, but rather a conclusion that an administrative group reached when trying to find ways to cut the district's budget. He said with the current state of the economy, decisions must be made according to what can be done with available resources.

"Personally, I regretted closing the (kindergarten center)," said board member Don Huber.

However, it was something he and others thought was necessary, he said.

"The issue there is operating stuff," Huber said.

Reopening the kindergarten center would require a principal and many other staff members that wouldn't be necessary with modular buildings.

Huber also said that once the modulars are purchased, no costs, other than minimal operating expenses, would accrue. Reopening an entire building, he said, would continually drain the district.

Huber said that modular classrooms would be purchased through the district's permanent-improvement fund.

However, if the kindergarten center were to be reopened, its operational expenses would come from the district's general operating fund.

"It's the (general) operating fund that's really struggling," he said.

Yocum said that when the kindergarten center was closed, its students were transferred to elementary buildings. One kindergarten classroom is at Etna Elementary School, two kindergarten classrooms are at Pataskala Elementary School (one regular classroom and the primary classroom) and four kindergarten classrooms are at Kirkersville Elementary School.

Board member Cindy Zaino, who opposed closing the kindergarten center, emphasized the board had not yet made a decision on the modular buildings.

She supported the formation of the superintendent's committee. She said board members will be open to the committee's findings, but she hopes committee members are working hard to find creative ways to deal with classroom crowding.

"I'm curious to see what the committee will bring back," Zaino said. "I think right now we're just in a tough spot."