The Olentangy Local School District will have to tweak how it measures building capacity to survive with an ever-growing student body, officials said at a school board meeting last Thursday, Aug. 23.

The Olentangy Local School District will have to tweak how it measures building capacity to survive with an ever-growing student body, officials said at a school board meeting last Thursday, Aug. 23.

Board members discussed current and future enrollment, as well as the district's newest state report card, as part of a yearly review of the district's Continuous Improvement Plan at the meeting.

The plan identifies benchmarks for the district in each new school year. No action was taken during the work session.

Board members agreed the district should reconsider what it currently considers "capacity" levels for schools, particularly the district's three high schools.

The 1,720 students currently enrolled at Liberty High School already exceed the building's purported capacity of 1,600 students, yet board members agreed the building isn't overcrowded.

"I don't know how that number was developed, but it's certainly not based on how many kids we can fit and accommodate in each school," said board member Stacey Dunbar.

She said space in common areas, especially lunch rooms, is more a limiting factor than classroom space.

Dunbar suggested the high schools could consider opening their campuses during the lunch hour to give some students the option to go home for lunch, providing some relief in crowded lunch rooms.

Strategic class scheduling could reduce traffic in crowded hallways, she said.

Board member Julie Wagner Feasel said many students are willing to tolerate cramped quarters to remain at their home schools.

Freshmen at Olentangy High School currently are forced to share lockers, but when asked, prefer the arrangement to moving to the less crowded Orange High School, just 4.5 miles away, she said.

Board members said balancing enrollment among schools is virtually impossible without creating long, winding bus routes and long commutes to school.

The overall student body continued to grow this year, topping 17,500, up from 16,766 in September 2011.

Enrollment is expected to plateau around 2020, but the struggles to find space in the district's high schools could continue for several years beyond that.

Projections indicate kindergarten and first-grade enrollment will continue to increase through 2014-15, leading to increases in high school enrollment through 2023-24.

In the past year, the board has discussed strategies to help delay the cost of building a fourth high school, including the possibility of add-ons to current buildings.

"Adding more buildings should be almost a last resort," said board member Kevin O'Brien.

Also at the Aug. 23 meeting, the board discussed the district's upcoming report card from the state, which now is set to be released sometime in September.

State education officials delayed the release of full report cards for Ohio districts this month after officials in several districts, including Columbus City Schools, were found to be manipulating attendance data to boost scores.

Lucas said the state is "punishing all of us because of a few bad apples."

He also said the latest projections indicate the district will receive a Performance Index of 107.4 -- slightly down from projections in July of 107.6, but still the district's highest-ever score.

Last year, the district earned a score of 106.9, then a personal best. The Performance Index is based primarily on student test scores.