The Olentangy Local School District may need to build two new elementary schools over the next decade to keep up with enrollment growth, according to projections released earlier this month.
Enrollment projections reviewed by the Olentangy school board Nov. 9 show the district growing from its current enrollment of about 21,000 students to more than 24,000 by the 2027-28 school year.
A report from the district's facilities committee states the projected growth would cause "some enrollment stress" at district middle schools and high schools within the next decade, but likely would not necessitate any new middle school or high school buildings.
The same is not expected to hold true for the district's elementary schools.
Projections show the district filling all of its 449 elementary and preschool classrooms in the 2020-21 school year. By 2027-28, projections show the district with a deficit of 57 classrooms -- about two typical elementary schools' worth of space -- without any new facilities.
Superintendent Mark Raiff said the facilities committee and district officials will continue to evaluate potential solutions to looming crowding concerns.
"We have enough space, theoretically, to get through 2021," he said. "There are still administrative things we can look at (such as) trying to increase class size."
Raiff said he recognizes such a move may not be a "palatable solution," especially in the long term.
While the district seems poised to expand over the next several years, Raiff said a recession or slowdown in the housing market could lead to a drastic revision in enrollment projections.
"Those are hard things to predict," he said.
School board member Julie Wagner Feasel said other possible solutions to projected crowding at the elementary level include constructing new buildings on district-owned land and expanding existing elementary schools.
District officials cautioned much discussion and study of the possibilities are needed before moving forward with any solution.
One potential option for the district is to open a new school at the massive Evans Farm neighborhood under construction east of Olentangy High School off Lewis Center Road in Orange Township. Daniel Griffin, a partner in Evans Farm Land Development Co., has said his firm plans to set aside land for an elementary school and preschool building within the 1,250-acre neighborhood.
Olentangy officials said a potential deal regarding a new school at Evans Farm is far from done.
Feasel said she appreciates the developers' offer to set aside the land, but added no formal agreement exists between the district and Evans Farm Land Development Co.
"We don't have anything in writing that we have any land (at Evans Farm)," she said. "We've lost land before because we haven't had things in writing, so I don't want people to think, 'Oh, there's going to be a school there next year,' because that's certainly not the case."
Feasel said even if Evans Farm formally offers land to the district, it's possible building at another site would make more sense. Three existing elementary schools -- Alum Creek, Arrowhead and Heritage -- sit just outside the neighborhood's planned footprint.
Griffin also has said the developers would offer to construct a new school building at Evans Farm and lease it to the district.
Raiff said he characterized that potential arrangement as a "very premature conversation we haven't even begun having."