Big Walnut Local School District leaders are working to determine how to address overcrowding.

Because an 8.3-mill bond issue that would have raised $134 million was rejected in November, the district has had to find an alternative to building new facilities.

While plans for another bond-issue request are in the works, the most pressing issue for the district is General Rosecrans Elementary School. The school already is full and will be well over capacity by the next school year, district officials said.

To gain two classrooms, school leaders and the Big Walnut Local school board have been mulling options.

To avoid increasing class sizes -- which is a last resort -- the district could shuffle rooms in Hylen Souders Elementary School and bus elementary-schoolers there, rent space from area churches or purchase a trailer to house students.

Superintendent Angie Pollock said the district is "leaning toward" the trailer, also called a "modular classroom."

A new modular costs about $100,000 and would be used for Rosecrans, while a trailer would be renovated for about $10,000 and placed at Big Walnut Elementary.

Big Walnut Elementary School is not at the same level of overcrowding as Rosecrans, but Pollock said the district wants class sizes to stay in the desired range.

"In both of those buildings, we want to be really careful to not start the school with all of our clasrooms at capacity," she said. "We tend to pick up kids all throughout the year ... but in those two we're seeing growth in particular. We don't want to be in a situation where we hit the middle of the year and we're picking up kids ... and not having anywhere to put them."

Pollock said the district also is exploring the idea of renting space from other locations, but logistical issues likely will prevent that from being a feasible alternative to the trailers.

"We don't have big buildings sitting empty," she said. "So for us, it's looking at what's available during the week, and that's mostly churches."

If the district acquires a trailer, it likely will purchase rather than lease.

Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper determined that the cost of a purchase would be eclipsed by a lease after less than three years, and the district will need the facility longer than that.

"Even if we passed a bond issue in November, by time we get a building open, we know we would need a trailer for at least three years," Pollock said.

Costs unrelated to the trailer itself -- utilities, foundation work, freight costs and permitting -- also would account for about half of the price, according to Cooper.

Big Walnut residents will see a new bond request on the November ballot.

The district has continued education efforts with residents and issued surveys and questionnaires. Pollock said those efforts would continue, and leaders didn't want to rush into putting something on the May 2 special-election ballot.

"We really wanted to take the time to get that feedback, and we felt like we'd be really rushed to get back on in May," she said. "But that doesn't mean the need has gone away. It's even more pressing."

In the meantime, Cooper said, the district's leaders are doing the best they can to handle the issue of overcrowding.

"It's about not always having the best options available," he said. "We've just got to do what we can."

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