Pickerington Community School students returned from winter break last week with a brand new, dedicated space to complete their high school coursework.
Although still located within Pickerington High School North, Pickerington Community School now has a more permanent and specialized home.
School officials Jan. 8 officially opened a new 5,300-square-foot addition on the west corner of North's existing building that will house the 94 students currently attending the community school.
The approximately $1.139 million project, which began last summer, not only provides a dedicated space for the community, but increases its size from two classrooms at North, to five.
There's also now a conference room, a teacher work room, two administrative offices and a mechanical room, said Bob Blackburn, who serves as both Pickerington Local School District assistant superintendent and superintendent of the Pickerington Community School.
"We knew the two rooms at North were just temporary until we had our own facility," Blackburn said.
"We needed more space because we know that we're going to continue to grow."
Established in August 2011, the Pickerington Community School generally serves students ages 16 to 21 who are credit-deficient and three or more classes behind their peers.
In addition to providing high school-credited courses to students who've fallen behind and are at risk of not graduating, the community school also seeks to bring area students who've been home-schooled back into the district so the district can receive state funding for those students.
Students at the school receive classroom instruction and can complete some coursework online.
The school also has a work-study program, which allows students who qualify to earn credits while working.
In the 2011-12 school year, the Pickerington Community School served 103 students with varying amounts of high school credit.
Of those, 44 graduated.
"We're strictly state-funded," Blackburn said. "We receive $5,700, approximately, for each student.
"There is an agreement for us to pay back the (Pickerington Local School District) costs of that project.
"We try to maintain at least two months of operational funds at the community school and everything else that we receive is paid back to the district."
The addition more than doubles the community school's space and will allow for projected growth of at least 25 students each year, up to 200 students, Blackburn said.
Depending on direction from the Pickerington School Board, some of that space could be utilized to serve students in districts that are geographically contiguous to the Pickerington district's boundaries, he said.
"Our charter currently allows us to take students from outside the district," Blackburn said.
"We're going to cap it at 200.
"We only plan to grow by about 25 students every year because we have to (consider) staffing, as well."
Of the 94 students currently attending the community school, Blackburn said, 55 come from the Pickerington High School North attendance area and 39 are from the Pickerington High School Central area.