Gahanna-Jefferson in 2021: New Lincoln Elementary School opening, redistricting in store

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett, standing in one of the third-grade rooms, talks about the new elementary school during a tour Dec. 11.

The opening of a new elementary school, planning for a new high school and redistricting are three major initiatives for the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools as 2021 unfolds.

Steve Barrett, superintendent, said the district looks forward to the opening day of school in August at the new Lincoln Elementary School, 261 Helmbright Drive.

“Lots of progress has been made over the past few months,” he said. “The building is completely enclosed. Drywall is going up.”

In May 2018, voters approved a 1.22-mill, 30-year bond issue and a 4.28-mill continuing (permanent) operating levy, for a total of 5.5 mills, to finance the new elementary school that’s replacing the current Lincoln Elementary School at 515 Havens Corners Road.

“We’re so excited,” Barrett said. “Upper grades – third, fourth and fifth – are on the second floor. Spaces are going to be bright and new and bigger than our current classrooms.”

He said most classrooms would be 800 to 1,000 square feet, with most in the 900-square-foot range. 

Barrett said the lunchroom of the new school is connected to the gymnasium. 

“So what we’ll be able to do when we have parents come in – and maybe the music teacher will want to put on a program or maybe there’s a play – we’ll have a portable stage,” he said.  “We’ll have seating in both areas so we can maximize the (space). The stage isn’t permanent so that we can have more flexibility.”

Barrett said the portable stage is 1,000 square feet. 

“We really wanted to be able to have a place for the principal, counselors, parents and teachers to meet in a venue that can hold a grade level,” he said. “That was the thinking. It’s a very large space.”

Barrett said the district is overcapacity at six of seven elementary schools, with Chapelfield Elementary School being the exception.

He said the new Lincoln should help alleviate the crowding at the other schools.

Redistricting process

In preparation for the opening of the new elementary school to accommodate current and future growth, the district will be completing a redistricting project to realign school building boundaries, said Jill Elliott, assistant superintendent. 

She said the district is partnering with Cooperative Strategies, a demographics planning firm, that has worked with many school districts across the country, as well as central Ohio districts Dublin, Hilliard, Olentangy and Pickerington. 

“Over the next couple months, we will provide opportunities for our whole community to be involved and provide input about this very important process,” Elliott said. “We know changing school boundaries can be very difficult for some students and families, and we want to ensure that we have provided ample opportunities for voices to be heard and considered throughout the process.”

She said the redistricting committee first met virtually Dec. 17 and will continue to meet several more times over the next few months. 

“Our process will involve gathering feedback from the community at large, as well as hosting focus groups for those interested in learning more about the boundary options being considered,” Elliott said.  

A recommendation is expected to be presented to the board in February.

Jesse Cieslak, a level 4 pipe-fitter apprentice with HVAC company MIELKE, works on the pipes for a variable-air-volume unit in the new Gahanna elementary school Dec. 11.

Phase 2 planning

In addition to opening a new elementary school and realigning building boundaries  Barrett said, the district will begin the planning process for Phase 2 of the master facilities plan.

Thanks to passage of Issue 22 by 75 votes in November, planning for a new high school will occur this year. 

Issue 22 included a 4.93-mill bond issue and a 1.5-mill permanent-improvements levy, for a total of 6.43 mills.

The issue also included a 4.26-mill operating levy to hire additional staff to keep pace with increasing enrollment and meet additional costs related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to Barrett.

“We’re going to get started on hiring an architect, a builder, and the planning process will take us to June of 2022 or so,” Barrett said. “We’d like to begin and start building then. There’s lots and lots of community engagement and planning we want to do. We want to meet with teachers and discuss programing, especially at the high school. We will be building a 400,000-square-foot high school.”

He said the district wants teachers and the community to be very involved in the design of the new high school.

Barrett said it would take about 24 months to plan the new high school building and about 24 months to build it.  

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla