Sunrise Academy, a chartered Islamic school at 5657 Scioto Darby Road, may proceed with a plan to construct a 960-square-foot addition after the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission approved it Thursday, April 9, with a 6-1 vote.

Commission chairman Chris Lewie voted against it.

“(Sunrise Academy) is growing too much, too fast. … It’s overgrowing both campuses,” he said.

In November, Lewie also cast the single no vote when Sunrise Academy gained approval from the planning and zoning commission to occupy the former Hometown Urgent Care, 5677 Scioto Darby Road, as a campus for high school students.

As part of the conditional-use permit that allowed Sunrise Academy to occupy a portion of the building as a school, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Sunrise Academy also moved from the original school to the former urgent-care building.

The Islamic Society of Greater Columbus purchased the 13,000-square-foot building on 4 acres in February 2019, adjacent from the original school, for $1.05 million from Heritage Medical LLC, according to Franklin County property records.

When receiving approval for the conditional-use permit in November, Sunrise Academy agreed to a cap of 550 students at both campuses.

Sunrise Academy now will be able to build an addition to the original school that opened in 1996, a building that once was the Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The school would have to apply for and receive a building permit based on submitted plans before construction could start.

Mona Salti, principal of Sunrise Academy and the Sunrise Middle and High School, said the requested expansion is not for additional enrollment but to better serve students.

“Some classrooms have space for carpeted areas (and) workstations for teachers,” she said, but others do not.

The academy has two high school students, both of whom are freshmen, Salti said.

Enrollment at both campuses is about 350 students, and it is not expected to approach the cap in the near future, said Mouhamed Tarazi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus.

Although Lewie was the only commissioner who voted against the April 9 measure, others indicated they were not likely to support further expansion.

“I think we continue to try and shove 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag, (but) I find this particular expansion is pretty minor. But this would probably be the last expansion this commission member would approve,” commission member Jay Muether said during the meeting.

“Never say never, but it would require very detailed information and a review by our planning staff,” commission member Bill Uttley said April 10.

Tarazi said Sunrise Academy closed after March 13, the same date as most public school districts per Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to control the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Sunrise Academy also has moved to virtual online instruction.

“It’s an experiment,” Tarazi said.

He said several would-be students had been withdrawn by their families because of the coronavirus pandemic, making it unlikely Sunrise Academy would need to relocate or seek an alternate site.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo