Enrollment at Frank Nicholas Elementary School has dropped under 170 students. All other elementaries in the West Carrollton City School District have more than twice those numbers, district officials said. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

Superintendent: ‘Spark’ for school closing plan came from Ohio construction research

West Carrollton’s decision to seek state help to fund new school buildings did not prompt plans to close an elementary, according to its superintendent.

The process to become eligible for a Ohio Facilities Construction Commission program, however, did help the school district uncover data showing Frank Nicholas Elementary should be shut down because of dropping student numbers, Andrea Townsend said.

“Through the OFCC project and looking at the enrollment trends, that’s how we determined we had declining enrollment,” Townsend said. “So the conversation did spark from the OFCC project, but they’re not related.”

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Student population figures for West Carrollton – an open enrollment district that includes parts of Miami Twp. and Moraine – dropped more than 6 percent from 2014-17, according to Ohio Department of Education data.

K-12 enrollment for the district was 3,911 in 2015 and dropped to 3,540 last year, according to said Jack Haag, West Carrollton business manager.

Nicholas is lowest in the number of students.

The 62-year-old building on Vance Road in Moraine has 167 students. That’s less than 50 percent of the populations of CF Holliday (439), Harry Russell (383) and Harold Schnell (442), other elementaries in the district that house grades 1-5, records show.

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“We have plenty of space in our other buildings,” Townsend said. “So our staff will still be there.”

“It’s geography,” she added. “The location will be different. But the education will still be the same.”

Ryan Homes is building a 100-home subdivision – Pinnacle Ridge – off Vance Road as part of $45 million, 200-home plan announced in 2017.

However, projections do not show the new homes will warrant keeping the nearby elementary open, Haag said.

And Nicholas “is by far the smallest site we have for all elementary schools,” he said.

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A similar housing development was built several years ago behind Holliday elementary, but “we didn’t see a spike in enrollment” at that school, Haag said.

Closing Nicholas — estimated to save $700,000 annually – is about saving money and being “fiscally responsible,” Townsend said.

District officials last week informed Nicholas staff of the plan, which the board has discussed in work sessions and intends to vote on Feb. 20.

By the vote, “everyone will have known for quite a while” about the proposal, said West Carrollton board President Leslie Miller.

The district planned last week to send a letter to parents of Nicholas students, Townsend said. The letter included declining enrollment, a comprehensive review of the district’s financial data, general enrollment trends and staffing information, she said.

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Nicholas students will have until Feb. 15 to apply to Schnell Elementary, the district’s year-round school, district officials said.

Meanwhile, the district doesn’t expect to hear from the OFCC until April on whether it will qualify for its Expedited Local Partnership Program, Townsend said.

Acceptance into the ELPP would lock in a state assistance rate — potentially up to 81 percent for most of the construction work — for district-wide construction of new schools, a project that could range in cost from $125 million to $140 million, Haag has said.

West Carrollton has been talking with state facilities officials for nearly two years. All of the district’s buildings are more than 50 years old.

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