Pickerington Schools officials said they want to traverse a road map for teaching and learning that was established in the 2018-19 school year, while also familiarizing parents and community members with the plan and its goals.
At the outset of the 2018-19 school year, Pickerington Schools Superintendent Chris Briggs announced the district's "Plan for Progress," which sought to enhance strategies for achieving and evaluating academic excellence, efficient operations and modern facilities.
The initial year focused on collecting input from parents, community members without students in the schools, civic groups, local governments and businesses to understand community and student needs and hone the plan.
In the winter and spring of 2019, academic, operations and facilities priorities were identified.
Briggs said said the district now is trying to educate community members about the plan, while integrating it into classroom and district policies.
"The top priority for Pickerington Schools (in 2020) is implementing and communicating -- to the community and staff -- the Plan for Progress, our road map for the district's future," Briggs said.
Through the plan, Briggs said, district officials are working to determine how to engage students in "relevant and rich learning experiences that will prepare them for career, college and life."
For operations, the district will continue to evaluate how to maximize resources and ensure it is operating efficiently in manpower and costs.
And officials are striving to provide facilities "needed to be successful in today's world," Briggs said.
Briggs has created a blog named "Plan for Progress Promise" on the district website at pickerington.k12.oh.us/p4p. Each month, it examines a different area of the plan.
Driven by projected enrollment growth and the facilities portion of the plan, 2020 will be an important year for the district, district officials said.
Studies have shown enrollment will increase from 10,600 in 2019-20 to 11,600 by 2023-24, and then increase to 12,400 over 10 years.
Administrators and board members have said they plan to put a bond issue on the November ballot.
"Construction of a new junior high and the rest of the proposed renovations and additions are part of a well-researched 'Plan for Progress' to address and educate the expected increase of our student population," said Keith Kristoff, a school board member.
"We are projected to have an increase of over 1,000 K-12 students in the coming years and this plan is very proactive in meeting our housing needs for the foreseeable future," he said. "While nobody likes to pay more in taxes, Ohio doesn't provide many options to fund school districts."
If a tax issue were to be approved, school district officials said it would provide funds to:
* Build a new junior high on land the district owns on Lockville Road south of Opportunity Way, known as the McGill property.
* Add secure vestibules to improve security at the two high schools.
* Add an equal number of full size classrooms in each high school building.
* Renovate Ridgeview STEM Junior High to be a K-6 building to create a balanced feeder system for the secondary level
* Conduct "minor school boundary changes (that) will allow us to better balance attendance patterns for neighborhoods to progress to one junior high," according to Briggs.
* Relocate the Gateway program to the new K-6 building (Ridgeview) to create additional space at Toll Gate Middle School. The move would create space for potential enrollment growth in elementary school buildings and establish a permanent home for the preschool.
* Make the Welcome Center part of the district office.
Briggs said the reconfigurations should have "minimal" impact on transportation and staffing. He also said the bond-related work would lead to traffic enhancements at the schools.
"Moving Heritage Elementary to the current Ridgeview Junior High site reduces the back up on East Street," he said. "Building a junior high on the McGill property reduces the traffic backup on Hill Road."
Aided by administrators, the board is expected to begin zeroing in on the bond's millage and scope this spring.
"We are likely looking at less than 3 mills, which could cost the owner of a $300,000 home about $315 or less in additional taxes per year," Briggs said. "Pickerington Schools is constantly striving to remain as fiscally responsible as possible with taxpayer dollars, which I believe is evident by the fact that the district has not been on the ballot since 2011."
Briggs said the bond is needed because some school buildings are currently at or near capacity.
"We have been managing the growth, but we are running out of options," he said. "At Pickerington High School Central, for instance, we have already reconfigured classrooms, programs and hallway spaces, including tearing out old locker bays and repurposing them as tutor rooms to make more space in regular classrooms.
"Projects like these have been done at a number of schools as stopgap measures."
To communicate the Plan for Progress and the bond needs, Briggs and district treasurer Ryan Jenkins have begun visiting school buildings with local organizations, businesses and community groups.
"We want to hear from not only our parents, students and staff but also the community at large," Briggs said.