It is no secret to those who live in the Big Walnut Local School District that we are growing at an unprecedented pace -- twice the rate of just five years ago.
Proactively managing our growth is something we discuss and work on daily. In fact, it is the biggest issue facing our district right now.
Looking ahead to the next school year -- the planning for which began right after this school year started -- we already are seeing a different Big Walnut take shape next year. I want to continue to keep you informed of what we are seeing with the growth and how we intend to handle it when students return in the fall.
First, you should know that our enrollment continues to grow and no relief of this growth is in sight.
At the elementary level, not all of our schools have the same classroom size. That means a full classroom at Big Walnut Elementary School, which has small classrooms, looks far different than it does at General Rosecrans Elementary School, a building with larger classroom sizes.
All of our elementary classroom spaces are being used. Between the four buildings, we anticipate having only four spaces that can be converted to regular classroom spaces; currently, these rooms are being used for speech and occupational/physical therapy or serve as computer labs or book rooms.
To accommodate some of the growth, we have begun renovating an existing trailer at Big Walnut Elementary School to use next year. Additionally, we have started the process of purchasing a used double-classroom trailer that will be added to Rosecrans Elementary School.
At the intermediate school, we are adding an additional lunch period to accommodate the increased enrollment. Whenever lunch periods are added, the entire schedule is impacted.
Our lunch periods are full at the middle school and over capacity at high school. In addition to the cafeteria, the high school atrium is being used to accommodate the increased enrollment. If it were not for students working with teachers during their lunch period, additional periods would need to be added next school year. However, in 2018-19, lunches may have to start as early as 9:30 a.m.
I know none of these are ideal fixes. Until our district has more of a long-term solution, we will continue to do what we can.
I am proud of our teachers and staff for all that they are doing to cope with the issue. I routinely hear comments about them going above and beyond. At the high school, some teachers even have invited students to have lunch in their classrooms so they have somewhere to sit while eating.
I am deeply appreciative and not at all surprised by the way our staff shows flexibility in meeting our students' needs.
As far as a long-term fix for the enrollment growth and overcrowding, our facilities committee, district and board continue to review options. A November ballot issue is likely. Although it is too early to say exactly what that will look like, we know it will need to provide some relief to the overcrowding.
We are seeking input from you and the community so we can thoroughly assess the district's needs and consider all options for meeting them.
Angie Pollock is superintendent of the Big Walnut Local School District.