Pickerington Schools officials haven't decided what will be built on a 68-acre site on Lockville Road south of Opportunity Way, but they're preparing it for development for a project they say will address future enrollment growth.

According to district officials, there are 10,600 students in the district and enrollment studies predict that number to increase by 1,000 in the next five years.

In 10 years, enrollment is expected to be about 12,400. District officials say new housing is driving the growth.

At this point, district officials haven't shared their plan for managing the influx.

But the Pickerington school board unanimously approved a $1.3 million contract Feb. 25 for John Eramo & Sons to conduct site grading and utilities preparation for what a district press release said was "a future school use, such as an additional school building campus."

"We are still investigating what could potentially be built on the site based on the results of the recent enrollment study," said Vince Utterback, Pickerington Schools' business manager. "The actual facilities that may be built on the site are still to be determined."

The site, known as the McGill property, was purchased by the district for $1.65 million in March 2010. It is along Lockville Road adjacent to Pickerington High School Central.

At the time it was acquired, Utterback said the property was part of the district's master plan and could be used to expand classroom or athletic facilities at either school.

According to Charlie Jahnigen, vice president of architecture for SHP Leading Design, the site-prep work potentially will save the district time and added costs when it does develop the property.

"Making it shovel ready will expedite future developments on the property," Jahnigen said. "Doing the work in advance also helps reduce the impact of construction inflation.

"Right now, construction inflation is about 5 percent year."

The prep work will be paid from the district's permanent improvement fund, which is separate from the general operating budget and is designated for projects such as facility improvements.

Revenue in that fund is provided by a 28-year, $59.9 million bond voters passed in November 2006, and it's the same fund that financed the purchase of the McGill property, district officials said.

"Preparing the site now helps to mitigate future costs, including the cost of lost time," said Chris Briggs, Pickerington's superintendent. "It allows us to be more nimble in the future, and gives us greater flexibility on how we address our needs."

Utterback said the site work is expected to be completed by Aug. 31.

"The enrollment clearly shows that we are growing as a community and are planning appropriately," he said.

"Some buildings are currently at or near capacity and something will need to be done to accommodate the projected growth."