Lakota Schools weigh options as district continues growing and needing space

Butler County’s largest school system is getting bigger and so too are classroom capacity growing pains, Lakota Local Schools officials said.

A recent district facilities committee meeting of the Lakota Board of Education saw officials warn board members that decisions on how to handle the expanding enrollment, which now has the 17,800-student school system ranked 8th largest in Ohio, need to be addressed.

The district, which draws students from the fast-growing Liberty and West Chester townships, has some school buildings aging out of accommodating spaces or in need of renovation, officials have warned in recent years.

“I think it’s really important to understand that we’re starting to be at capacity at many of our buildings,” said Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, in post-meeting marks shared by district officials.

“We’re expecting teachers to do personalized learning. We’re expecting teachers to do small group instruction and still be able to meet the needs of students in the classrooms. Yet we’re at 28, 29 students in a classroom and no place to create new classrooms,” said Lolli.

Lolli told the board new housing developments in the two townships, which are among fastest growing in Ohio, are adding to the urgency for the district to make decisions on adding and modernizing learning spaces.

Among those eventual decisions, will be determining whether to seek a tax bond issue from residents, including the year for such a ballot proposal, size of the tax and, if approved by voters, the subsequent, years-long time frame to complete any school construction.

“We’re at a critical point and we’re talking five years with the (bond issue), the design and the building,” she said.

Lakota Treasurer Adam Zink told the board since 2019, Lakota has added 2,200 students.

“This is the first time in the (five-year financial) forecast we’ve actually forecasted in student growth. The growth keeps happening,” said Zink.

Lakota Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge advised board members of the increasing importance of coming to decisions based on more detailed population and demographic studies.

“I’d like the board to consider either going out on our own (to) do our own and pay for demographic study or go through the ELPP (Expedited Local Partnership Program) and have the OFCC (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) do it,” said Passarge. “We’re at the point now where we need to get better numbers.”

Board members then asked Passarge to research additional demographic companies for comparison.

District officials said the next Master Facilities Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled to be held in January at a yet-to-be-scheduled date.

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