August 25, 2022
By Editor Rachel Scofield
The Pickerington Local School District (PLSD) plans to purchase the empty Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation building at 13430 Yarmouth Road NW to convert into a preschool.
At its August 8 meeting, the school board approved a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) to buy the 40,500-square-foot property from West Fairfield Ohio, LLC for $3 million.
District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said that the PSA creates a 90-day window for PLSD to conduct due diligence on the property including title searches and environmental testing. The district should close on the facility sometime in mid-November, “assuming the due diligence doesn’t turn up any ‘deal-breakers,’ which we are not anticipating.”
Superintendent Dr. Chris Briggs said that the facility may also be used by the Academic Services Department and other groups as a meeting space.
School Board President Vanessa Niekamp said that the Yarmouth building could house as many as 20 preschool classrooms. Currently, the district’s preschoolers attend classes in Pickerington, Sycamore Creek, Tussing and Violet Elementaries – three per building.
District officials anticipate needing a total of 14 to 15 preschool classrooms within the next three years.
“This is much needed space at these elementary schools,” Niekamp said. “But perhaps more importantly, we will now not have to renovate Heritage Elementary into a preschool learning center, which will allow us to renovate Ridgeview Junior High into an eighth elementary school and a fourth middle school.”
Crowding is an issue at many Pickerington School buildings.
Ten of the district’s fourteen buildings currently have reached greater than 85-percent capacity, with Pickerington Central already exceeding its maximum by 300 students.
Pickerington Schools has placed an $89.93 million bond issue on the November 8 ballot. If voters approve the issue, PLSD will build a new junior high with a capacity of 1,300 students, and the district will add classrooms to both high schools and renovate multiple elementary classrooms.
This bond request is more than $5 million lower than similar issues which voters rejected in November of 2020 and May of 2021. It does not include athletic facilities.
Upon completion of the new junior high, the Ridgeview building will be renovated to create a combined elementary and middle school facility (like the Toll Gate schools).
Originally, the district planned to renovate Heritage Elementary into a preschool building.
With new construction currently taking up to three years to complete, had the district not purchased the Yarmouth property, Jenkins estimates that it would have been between five and seven years before PLSD could open a dedicated preschool facility.
Now Heritage will remain an elementary.
“This will allow Ridgeview Junior High to be converted to an eighth elementary school and fourth middle school, and the capacity of that building will allow us to grow our capacity by about 700 to 800 students.” Jenkins said.
Eight elementary schools feeding into four middle schools, will be “far more balanced” than the district’s current system in which students from seven elementaries feed into three middle schools.
With the construction industry experiencing significant delays, getting the Yarmouth Building upgraded to meet mandated preschool standards will take a couple of years.
“Our sincere hope is to get there as fast as we can, but it would most likely be in the 2023-24 school year,” Jenkins said.
As required by law, the district’s preschool program serves special needs students, said PLSD Public Relations Coordinator Crystal Davis.
Typical students are chosen on a first-come-first-served basis to act as role models. Classes meet Monday through Thursday with students attending either 8 to 10:45 am or from noon to 2:45 pm.