Lakota Schools will add more students in the next five years but then level off during the following five, district officials said Wednesday during a meeting of the school system’s facilities committee. The changing demographic projections could mean a re-alignment of grades in Lakota’s 23 school buildings, said officials. (Photo by Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)

Lakota Schools plans for future as booming student growth slows

That’s the interpretation from officials from Butler County’s largest school system as they reviewed demographic projections Wednesday for the district’s Liberty and West Chester townships at a facilities committee meeting.

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Lakota, which is the largest suburban district in Southwest Ohio and possesses the eighth largest enrollment in the state, has slowed its addition of new students sharply from the pace of 20 years ago, when the district annually added hundreds of new students.

But now the 16,500-student district is leveling off and projected to add about 365 new students in the next five years, with most from new families moving into the district’s northern communities in Liberty Township.

From there, enrollment slows, and the 2028-29 school year enrollment is estimated to level off close to 17,000.

About a decade ago, Lakota enrollment exceeded 18,000.

“The growth is now in Liberty Twp. because West Chester Twp. is largely built out,” said Jenni Logan, treasurer for Lakota Schools.

West Chester’s population is more than 64,000, and it is the most populace township in Ohio.

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Liberty, which sits on West Chester’s northern border, has about 40,000 residents and overall has more available land for residential development.

Officials could change the current alignment of grades in some of Lakota’s 23 school buildings, possibly redraw attendance areas and even possibly replace some of the district’s older schools that are becoming too costly to renovate.

But Lakota officials stressed any such decisions are long off and will be preceded by more studies and extensive discussions via public meetings with Lakota residents.

Lakota Board of Education member Brad Lovell said looking at the demographic projections is the first of many steps before the board were to make any decisions impacting any school building.

Moreover, said Lovell much more study is needed, specifically how district officials will determine any building changes or renovations of learning spaces would mirror the goals of Lakota’s strategic plans.

“There haven’t been any decisions about anything. We are really just getting data,” he said.

But Lovell said “this is incredibly exciting work.”

“This work is the next logical step as we evaluate our current facilities, understand future trends and discover ways to offer the best education for our students,” he said.

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