Big Walnut Families,
Before I came to Big Walnut to be the superintendent, I knew one of the challenges would be the enrollment growth of the district. In relation to our buildings, we are feeling that growth the most at the elementary level. Our principals and staff have had to get creative in many of our buildings to find classroom spaces by using areas that were not designed to be used as learning spaces. However, we are working with the space and resources we have.
In December of 2022, we began having serious discussions on options to handle this growth. The option that made the most sense from an academic and financial standpoint was to change our grade bands at the elementary, intermediate, and middle school levels. I first shared this idea publicly at our February 16, 2023 board meeting. We continued to monitor our enrollment data and trends throughout the end of last school year and into the summer. At the September 20th board meeting, I made the recommendation, which the board approved, to implement this plan and change the grade bands of our schools beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
This plan will not impact preschool at the ELC at Harrison Street. However, our four elementary buildings will now become kindergarten through 3rd grade buildings, BWI will serve students in grades 4 and 5, and Big Walnut Middle School will house grades 6-8. Big Walnut High School will continue serving grades 9-12. Again, this shift will take place next school year. This plan will free up about three to five classrooms at each of our elementary schools.
One of the biggest questions out there is what the start and end times will be at each level. Our goal is to continue to run our bus routes in two waves as we currently do. Our transportation department is working on different models based on the number of students we anticipate transporting and the number of bus drivers we have. Once we have a better idea of that information in the coming months, we will be able to make a decision and communicate those anticipated times with the community.
Our student enrollment has been growing at a rate of just under 3% since 2017. This plan will allow us to better utilize the space available at Big Walnut Middle School and buy us some time at the elementary level before needing to open a fifth elementary school.
As we get closer to the end of the school year, we will make sure that our students who are being impacted by this transition do not miss out on any of the important traditions. For example, I anticipate a clap-out for both 3rd and 4th grade students at the elementary levels.
Big Walnut is a growing community but more importantly, a great community. One that I am grateful to be a part of.
Yours in Education,
Big Walnut Local Schools