Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
NEW BOSTON — According to a Columbus Dispatch analysis of 52 new school buildings built this school year by the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), 18 were classified as “over capacity.” Among them is New Boston School.
New Boston School passed a local levy in 2008 to build a new Pre-K-through-12 school building, with the OSFC providing more than 80 percent of the funding. The school broke ground in April 2011, and opened Nov. 19, 2012, after a series of construction delays. According to New Boston Superintendent Mike Staggs, the OSFC based the size on the district’s enrollment (463, with pre-school students) at the time of application for funding in 2008. Staggs said the district fought to have that number increased, knowing they needed room for growth, but said the OSFC refused.
“I think when that company came in (that counted students) they were given the charge to keep things as small as possible, and I think that was from the state,” Staggs said. “I told them. I fought with them and fought with them to get up to 463. We had to fight to get that and I knew that was inadequate even then.”
Now in their new school building, the population has jumped to 534 since 2008 — 115 percent of the building’s intended capacity.
“We have two grades where we absolutely cannot take another kid, which is the first time that has ever happened. First grade and fifth grade is filled beyond where we should be,” Staggs said. “Once you get too many, you’re affecting the whole group. We had to turn people down this year.”
The school cannot refuse new students who live in their district, but they can refuse new open enrollment students. Rick Savors, spokesperson for the OSFC said it’s impossible for the commission to predict how much open enrollment a district might receive. He recommended the school could control their problem by limiting their open enrollment.
“While we’re aware of open enrollment and we use open enrollment statistics to try to get a feel for how many students are in the district, we don’t build for a projected open enrollment type of situation,” Savors said. “We can’t build for an extra 50 or 75 or 100 open enrollment students in New Boston, assuming that they’re going to have that many every year. We have to build for what we believe is going to be the number of students that are going to be in that district that are residents of that district.”
The former New Boston school properties were sold and/or demolished when they moved to the new building. Stanton School, opened in 1913, was demolished last month and the property was sold to Evangelistic Outreach of Ironton. The Glenwood High School building, opened in 1918, was sold to the South Central Ohio Educational Services Center and is occupied. Oak School, opened in 1913, was demolished last month, and Staggs said the school district is holding onto that land for future development as needed.
“I can’t build another school. I am at the maximum bonded indebtedness. I cannot borrow any more money. Worse comes to worst, we rent modulars like every other school that’s overcrowded,” Staggs said. “I’ve heard of schools that get loans from a bank, not a bond issue. So if you have that many more additional students then you can afford to do something like that. But that’s long term and right now we’re not to the point where we have to do anything. We just have to be careful.”
He said the district would certainly have to consider its options if enrollment reached 600 students.
In addition to the 18 buildings called “over capacity” by the Columbus Dispatch report, 25 more are called as “crowded” with 85-100 percent of their intended student population.
“When we leave a district, we’ve left them with the space necessary to provide their educational program to the children that are residing in that district,” Savors said.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.