Shoulder to shoulder
In recent years, Olentangy Local Schools has grown in size due to the building of new condo and apartment complexes. This is evident daily at all three high schools as it’s getting harder and harder to navigate through the crowded halls.
From 1998 to 2007, there was an average of 1,200 new residential construction projects begun within the district; from 2008 to 2014, only around 425 similar projects were commenced. While building seems to have slowed down, things are still being built.
“Anybody who pays attention and drives around can tell you that there’s a lot of dirt getting moved here,” Superintendent Mark Raiff said.
According to Olentangy Valley News, enrollment projections predict all three high schools will house more than 2,200 students by the 2019-20 school year. The capacity limit for the high schools is 1,600 students, meaning that an increase in enrollment would require the building of a fourth high school or the extension of existing schools.
Olentangy Liberty sophomore Abby Chirico finds it difficult to navigate the halls with Liberty’s enrollment of approximately 2,100 students.
“I think there should be another high school built. I heard rumors of Olentangy High School buying land to add onto the existing building and I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Chirico said.
Students can utilize the crowded halls to explore opportunities at the Delaware Career Center, dual enrollment at Columbus State or even the OASIS program. However, many students do not want to leave the high school during the day.
“A committee called Project 2020 studied ways to increase the capacity of the high schools. What we found since 2010-12 is that most kids don’t want to leave high school - they like traditional classrooms,” Raiff said.
Dr. Kathy McFarland, the new principal, said students should use common sense to avoid crowding the hall. “People shouldn’t be stopping where people are walking to talk with friends. You keep your eyes up and move off to the side,” McFarland said.
According to Olentangy Valley News, the estimated cost of building a fourth high school is $68.5 million and that of expanding the existing schools is $53.5 million.
However, when it comes to adding onto the existing schools, there lies a problem at OOHS. “I don’t know that there’s a lot of room to add on. We could build a separate building on the band practice field, but there certainly isn’t enough parking here already so that’s something the district would have to think about,” Raiff said.
The district already owns land by Olentangy High School on Berlin Station Road, which would house the fourth high school. If the district votes on building a new school, then all three existing schools will face redistricting. “Everyone is putting in their opinions right now, so once everyone has given their input, the district will finalize the decision,” McFarland said.
There are still going to be problems as incoming classes grow at each school. With more students, there are more conflicts when it comes to scheduling, particularly with electives.
“The bigger our district gets, the more problems we’ll have with scheduling. More people will want to take certain classes. The band at Orange for instance is huge, so there lies a problem as well because they may end up having to cut down on members,” Raiff said.
“There’s a 1,800 home development getting started by Olentangy High School, so the whole Northwest corner of the district will be open for development. I think people move here because of the schools, which is a great compliment, but because of this, we’ll have more space and capacity issues to address,” Raiff said.