Pickerington Times-Sun

Board may expand options for redistricting

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Pickerington School Board members last week said they might seek additional options beyond those identified for redrawing K-6 attendance boundaries and relocating the district's preschool.

During an approximately 21/2 hour work session at Toll Gate Middle School Nov. 13, district officials rolled out seven potential plans for relieving classroom overcrowding at Sycamore Creek Elementary School and Pickerington Elementary School, and relocating the Pickerington Learning Steps Preschool.

Those proposals remain in the preliminary stages, and the board took no action at the session.

Rather, they raised the prospect that more alternatives are to come.

"I'm not convinced we have the option here," said Jim Brink, a board member.

The work session followed four community forums recently held by the district to receive public input about proposed changes.

The board is scheduled to hold another work session from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Heritage Elementary School, 100 East St. That session will be followed by the board's regularly scheduled, monthly meeting.

Two options presented Nov. 13 -- Option 5 and Option 6 -- were eliminated Nov. 18, when the board voted against housing all six preschool classrooms at either Heritage or Toll Gate Elementary School.

The board Nov. 18 also rejected an earlier proposal to upgrade portable classroom spaces at Diley Middle School, which currently serve as the preschool's home.

Each of the remaining options, district officials said, seeks to keep students in their neighborhood school buildings.

They also would remove the preschool from portable classrooms into existing district buildings and allow for preschool growth.

Information related to the proposed options will be posted on the district's website, www.pickerington.k12.oh.us, officials said.

In each option, a total of 113 students from the Turnberry Creek and Colony Bay apartments, as well as the Arbors at Turnberry and Farmbrook subdivisions would go from Pickerington Elementary School to Violet Elementary School. Additionally, a total of 42 students from those neighborhoods would go from Diley to Harmon Middle School.

Current proposals also would move students in the Woodstream subdivision from Sycamore Creek Elementary to Heritage Elementary before moving on to Toll Gate Middle School, but the district last week was finalizing the number of those students that would be impacted.

Option 1 proposed moving three preschool classrooms to Violet and four preschool classrooms to Heritage Elementary.

As a result 195 Heritage students would be relocated to Toll Gate Elementary, and 75 students of those students would go on to Toll Gate Middle School.

That option, according to district data, would increase busing costs by $78,055, and costs for equipment, materials and personnel would go up by $47,700.

Option 2 would establish three preschool classrooms at Violet Elementary and Toll Gate Elementary, respectively.

Under Option 2, 103 students at Heritage tentatively would be relocated to Toll Gate Elementary.

Students moving from Heritage to Toll Gate Elementary would go on to Toll Gate Middle School, but those numbers also weren't finalized.

Option 2, according to district data, would increase busing costs by $160,655, equipment, materials and personnel expenses would be increased by $47,700.

Option 3 called for Toll Gate Elementary to house three preschool classrooms and Heritage to take in four.

Under that plan, 125 Heritage students would be moved to Violet. Twenty-eight of those students would then go to Toll Gate Middle School.

Option 3 would increase transportation costs by $160,655, district officials said.

Under Option 4, Fairfield Elementary would house three preschool classrooms and Heritage would take four preschool classes.

That plan would result in 195 Heritage students moving to Toll Gate Elementary, and 75 of those students would move on to Toll Gate Middle School.

Additionally, Option 4 called for 51 Fairfield students to move to Violet, 17 of whom would go on to Harmon.

Option 4 would result in busing costs to increase by $78,055, according to district data, and costs for equipment, materials and personnel would rise by $47,700.

Option 7 would involve moving three preschool classrooms to Violet, and three to Fairfield.

Under that plan, 70 Heritage students would be relocated to Toll Gate Elementary, and 28 of those students would move on to Toll Gate Middle School.

An additional 33 Heritage students would be moved to Violet, and 16 of them would go on to Toll Gate Middle School, while 51 Fairfield students would be moved to Toll Gate Elementary and 43 of them would advance to Toll Gate Middle School.

Busing costs under Option 7 would increase by $78,055, district officials said, and equipment, materials and personnel costs would increase by $47,700.

After seeing the options, Brink said the district needs more data to ensure the redistricting moves will serve the district for at least five years, and attendance balance can be achieved throughout buildings.

Board member Lori Sanders, however, said Brink's proposal was "unrealistic," and the board should address "immediate needs."

"The bottom line is, I guess I've been on the board too long where long-term decisions are two to three years," said Sanders, who on Nov. 5 was elected to her fifth term on the board.

About five parents attended the Nov. 13 session, which began at 4 p.m.

Among them was Heritage Parent-Teacher Organization President Julie Bechert, who opposes moving four preschool classrooms into Heritage. That plan, she said, would displace too many current students.

She also said the move would hamper collaborative teaching, in which three to four teaching "sections" provide instructions to students who are in the same grades but at learning at different levels.

Bechert also said Heritage is not adequate to serve preschool students with special needs because it is one of the district's oldest buildings.

"We're not handicap-accessible and our parking lot is a playground," she said. "It also would not be the same education.

"The education process that would be here would be so different than at the other buildings where the collaborative teaching is there."

Bechert said Violet, which currently has five empty classrooms, and Toll Gate Elementary, which has seven, would be better fits for the preschool. Heritage currently has no empty classrooms.

"It doesn't make sense," she said. "Violet could house it. Toll Gate could house it.

"It doesn't appear they're taking the community's concerns and what was said at the community forums into account."

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