The Olentangy Local School District's administrative offices could head south to make space for preschool students.
The district's school board will conduct a special meeting Tuesday, March 7, to discuss the prospect of leasing the former home of Modern Medical Inc. District officials see the nearly 40,000-square-foot office building at 7840 Graphics Way in Orange Township as a potential solution to crowding issues at Olentangy's elementary schools.
The lease would allow the district to move its administrative offices to the vacant building from their current home at Shanahan Middle School.
Sharon Jurawitz, a member of the district's facilities committee, told the school board last week the move would allow the addition of 12 preschool classes and two activity spaces at Shanahan.
The lease would cost the district about $479,000 per year. The cost of renovating Shanahan and the Modern Medical building to fit their new purposes has been estimated at about $888,000.
The board began looking for ways to ease crowding at the district's elementary schools last fall after the facilities committee issued a report on capacity constraints. According to the report, the district devotes about a full elementary school's worth of classrooms to pre-K students.
When adjusted to include the amount of classroom space set aside for preschool and specialized learning centers for disabled students, Olentangy's elementary schools already are over their design capacity by about 300 students.
Superintendent Mark Raiff said elementary school crowding is "the next big issue facing the district." Olentangy, which now enrolls more than 20,000 students, broke ground on a fourth high school last year to ease enrollment pressure at the high school level.
At last week's meeting, the board also considered two additional options for easing crowding at the district's elementary schools: constructing a new preschool building or installing modular classrooms at one or more existing school sites.
The new preschool building had the highest price tag, with construction costs estimated at $12.8 million.
While hauling in temporary classrooms likely would have the lowest cost in the short term, the idea found few fans on the school board.
"I think there's just too many security issues with modular classrooms," board member Julie Wagner Feasel said.
Board member Roger Bartz said he's "inclined ... to get to the point of starting to get a lease agreement in place" for the Modern Medical building.
Jeff Gordon, Olentangy's director of business management and facilities, said the board does not have a long time to make a decision. He said another potential tenant has expressed interest in the facility, and the owner wants to hear back from the district by the end of March.
"They won't hold that location for a long time," Gordon said.
A potential lease agreement for the Modern Medical building would not be Olentangy's first real-estate deal in the neighborhood.
The district in 2014 began leasing the home of the Olentangy Academy at 7774 Graphics Way. Voters last year approved funding for the district to purchase the structure.