PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – Families in a central Ohio community are facing the possibility of their junior high school students being in hybrid learning next year, but not because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
District leadership with the Pickerington Local School District said it’s because the number of students is growing exponentially, but the number of classrooms remains the same.
The plan was presented at a Pickerington School Board meeting Monday. No decision on the plan has been made.
Parents at the meeting said they hope other options are seriously considered before a final decision is made.
“We do have overcrowded schools,” said parent Courtney Green. “However, taking these kids out of school is, it doesn’t meet the expectation of Pickerington proud.”
Green’s child will be an eighth-grader next year and has two other children who could be affected by the plan if it goes into place. She said her daughter texted her during Monday’s meeting as the presentation was being given.
“That broke my heart to get a text from her saying that all of her friends are upset, that they’re texting one another,” Green said. “These kids are seventh and eighth grade and they know what’s going on, they’re aware, they understand how this is going to impact them.”
Green was one of six parents who spoke at the meeting, all of them against the proposal.
The plan was presented by Chief Administrative Officer and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Heather Hedgepeth, along with two junior high school principals. The plan was different than the one the district used during the pandemic.
“We’ve brainstormed as much as we can and we just keep going back to we can’t make the buildings any bigger,” Hedgepeth said.
The principals also talked about behavioral issues at the schools affecting some students’ comfort levels.
The final decision will not be left to the school board; since it is an instructional issue, the district’s administration will make the final call.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to do it right and we need to provide the support to our families and to our students and make it work,” said Pickerington Superintendent Dr. Chris Briggs. “It’s not a cure-all; it’s not the best situation for all of our families, we get it. But we’re just trying to do the best we can with what we have in front of us and that’s our facilities.”
Hedgepeth said she would like to have a decision made in the next two weeks. Board members are encouraging the public to send feedback to district leaders. The district is also gathering feedback for teachers.
“I think it is important for this community to embrace the reality their options are not great, but that we are trying to make the best of a not-great situation,” said school board member Cathy Olshefski.
Since 2017, there have been three ballot issues for the schools in Pickerington, all of which have failed. Those issues, if passed, would have, at least in part, funded the construction of new schools or renovations to current school buildings.
The board took a step Monday toward getting another of those initiatives on the November ballot.