Work is underway to add 18 new classrooms at three Olentangy elementary schools in the hopes they will ease crowding in time for the 2019-20 school year.

The Olentangy school board June 14 unanimously approved adding six classrooms each at three elementary schools: Alum Creek, 2515 Parklawn Drive, and Arrowhead, 2385 Hollenback Road, both in Lewis Center; and Wyandot Run, 2800 Carriage Road in Powell.

Six schools originally were considered for expansion. Sites were weighed for elements such as utility placement and property lines to determine which schools could be expanded easily.

"These are the three most ideal locations for additions due to their similar footprint," said Jack Fette, chief academic officer. "They also have an additional playground, which will help accommodate extra students. We are confident that those three sites are the best options."

Each of the new classrooms will have a restroom, meaning they can be used for preschool, although "they are as flexible as all of our other classroom space," Fette said.

Together, the additions are expected to cost about $10.5 million, Fette said.

As part of the project, the board also unanimously approved a $553,989 contract with Fanning Howey Associates Inc., for architectural and engineering services at the three schools.

The expansions will be funded from about $14.9 million left from a 2011 bond issue. That issue included funding for an elementary school that wasn't built.

Heritage Elementary School, which opened in 2011, is Olentangy's newest elementary school.

The district anticipates about 1,388 incoming kindergartners in the fall.

Olentangy's facilities committee has been studying options for expanding classroom space for months. Without the additions, the district predicted it would be completely out of space in its elementary schools by the 2020-21 academic year.

"Growth is frequently at the top of the agenda and is not projected to slow down for decades," said Mindy Patrick, board president. "We have to look at this long term and do as little redistricting as possible."

Even with the 18 new classrooms, officials predict the district will need to open a 16th elementary school in 2022 and could need another as soon as 2026.

Building a new, 35-classroom elementary school is expected to cost between $18 million and $20 million, according to facilities committee projections, and there currently is no funding for new buildings.

The additions are expected to cost about $120,000 annually in increased utility and custodial costs, said Emily Hatfield, district treasurer.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 28 in the library at Olentangy High School, 675 Lewis Center Road.