Pickerington Schools officials are moving toward requesting placement of a bond issue on the November 2020 ballot that, if approved by voters, would provide funds to build a new junior high school.

Since at least April, school district officials have discussed how districtwide enrollment is expected to increase by 1,000 students by 2024 and 1,800 students by 2029.

That growth, they've said, will require more school building space, and they've targeted the future construction of a new junior high school on district-owned land on Lockville Road, south of Opportunity Way, as the best way to address the influx of students.

Now administrators and the Pickerington school board seem to be focusing on a timeline for moving the project forward.

"It is absolutely our intent to have a bond issue in November 2020," said district treasurer Ryan Jenkins. "It is the full intent and expectation of all five board members to go on the ballot on Nov. 3, 2020."

Jenkins said it's too early for the board to pass a notice of intent or notice to proceed. The district has not formally acted to place a bond on the November 2020 ballot.

But administrators have presented information to board members that includes an approximately $77.93 million price tag for building a new junior high school.

Within that plan, there also are calls to upgrade storm shelters at the future junior high and both of the district's high schools so they are up to Ohio building code and designed to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour. The preliminary plans also include allowances for space reallocations, additional classrooms and other renovations at the district's existing schools.

The tentative plans include the purchase of new furnishings and appurtenances for the schools, including security vestibules at the two high schools, and the construction of co-curricular and extracurricular spaces at the future junior high school, as well as at Lakeview Junior High School and both high schools.

If the entire package is placed on the ballot as currently being discussed, the total cost of the bond would be approximately $91.54 million. District officials said they haven't yet broken that down in terms of millage or how much it would cost taxpayers per $100,000 of home valuation.

"Discussions are all conceptual and geared toward a recommendation of the November 2020 election," said Lori Sanders, school board vice president. "Thus far, we have heard little in the way of negativity.

"I would assume it will stay that way if we communicate clearly and keep the costs reasonable."

In addition to the bond proposal, district administrators and the board are discussing "better sharing of staff and facilities," as part of the district's Plan for Progress.

If the bond goes forward at $91.54 million, it would provide for the storm shelter and high school security vestibules, as well as renovating Ridgeview to be a K-6 building that administrators in a package to the board said "creates (a) balanced feeder system for the secondary level."

Ridgeview would be converted into a building that, on one side, would serve K-4 students who currently attend Heritage.

Ridgeview would serve fifth- and sixth-grade students in a separate area of the building, and students from the district's Gateway Academy, a gifted-education program for students with superior cognitive skills.

Under the proposal, which would require board approval, Heritage would be converted into the permanent home of the district's preschool program. It also would house the district's Welcome Center, an office that processes new students enrolling in the district.

Long-term plans call for Pickerington High School Central to be expanded to add 24 classrooms, the renovation of the school's main entry for better security and an expanded cafeteria.

Pickerington High School North would see the addition of 18 classrooms and construction of a more secure main entry.

"We have been presented with a comprehensive package that includes new construction, additions, reallocation of space, furnishings and extracurricular spaces," Sanders said. "All educational levels and buildings are being included in some manner."

Jenkins said it would like be "late winter, early spring" before the board possibly would vote to request a bond issue be placed on the ballot.

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