Pickerington Schools again trying to gain support for 2.9-mill bond issue

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Gayle Saunders

After an unsuccessful push for a 2.9-mill bond issue last November, the campaign committee backing the same Pickerington Schools package this May says the community needs to act before district buildings exceed capacity. 

Since spring 2019, Pickerington Schools officials have pointed to a study conducted earlier that school year that said the district’s overall enrollment would grow by 1,800 students by 2028-29. 

That message, plus statements saying the district has largely exhausted options to create additional classroom space at existing buildings, has failed to sway voters. 

Last November, a 2.9-mill bond issue to fund construction of a third junior high school and expansions at current buildings was defeated 15,434 to 13,602. 

But the need hasn’t gone away, according to both district officials and the pro-bond issue group, Vote FOR Pick Kids. 

The district and the campaign committee are hoping for a different result when the same issue is put before voters on the May 4 ballot. 

“This levy is a proactive approach to meeting classroom and related area facility needs for the future,” said Gayle Saunders, who again is chairing Vote FOR Pick Kids. “We are at or approaching capacity at several buildings. 

“We cannot afford to wait until we are completely out of space. This is a comprehensive preschool-through-grade-12 package at an extremely low millage rate.” 

As of press time, ThisWeek Pickerington Times-Sun was unaware of any organized opposition to the bond issue. 

District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said the May 4 bond issue is identical to the one on the Nov. 3 ballot. 

The 2.9-mill bond would provide the district with approximately $95 million over the 38 years, he said. 

“The (Fairfield County) auditor used 2019 values to again certify 2.9 mills, which is still $101.50 per $100,000 of (home) market value,” Jenkins said. 

Based on those same calculations in November, Saunders said the bond would cost homeowners $8.46 a month, per $100,000 home value. 

It would provide funds for a new junior high school that could serve up to 1,100 students, district officials have said. The school would be built on the former McGill property, a 66-acre tract the district owns on Lockville Road, south of Opportunity Way.    

Also on that property, the district would build a new stadium for Pickerington High School Central.     

The bond also would fund: 

• The conversion of Ridgeview STEM into a building to serve students in grades K-4 who are attending Heritage Elementary School and fifth- and sixth-grade students and students from the district’s Gateway Academy, a gifted-education program for students with superior cognitive skills.   

• Heritage would become the permanent home of the preschool program. It also would house the District Welcome Center, an office that processes students who are enrolling.   

• PHS Central would be expanded to add 24 classrooms and a larger cafeteria. In addition, the school’s main entry would be renovated for better security. 

• Pickerington High School North would see additional classrooms and construction of a more secure main entry.    

Those projects, according to the district, would enable the district to address enrollment, which is expected to grow from 10,600 students to 12,400 by 2028-29. 

“This is important to me, and I believe it is important to this community,” Saunders said. “Our needs did not go away when the bond issue did not pass last year. Our needs are great today and for tomorrow. Our goal is to help educate Pickerington families on why we need this issue and why we are back on the ballot.” 

As of Feb. 23, Saunders said, Vote FOR Pick Kids had a seven-member steering committee and support from the Pickerington Education Association, which represents 685 Pickerington teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, media specialists and special-services providers. 

She said the campaign committee is seeking more volunteers to help spread a positive message about the bond issue. Those interested in joining the effort, learning more or providing financial support can do so at vote4pickkids.com.

In the meantime, Saunders said, Vote FOR Pick Kids is developing a get-out-the-vote strategy to inform more people about district needs and to answer questions from voters. 

“This time, we are working to reach out more (by) holding coffee Zoom meetings with community members, have a more robust grassroots campaign, going door-to-door, increasing our focus on direct mail,” she said. “We are focusing our efforts on telling the needs of the district, helping people understand why passage is important to address overcrowding. 

“Our schools are crowded and with the projection of an additional 1,000 students, we must look toward the future and plan accordingly. We need this bond issue,” Saunders said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate