Alder leaders discuss district growth, future


Jonathan Alder Local Schools are hosting a series of community conversations throughout the month of October.
Superintendent Gary Chapman said he will speak about current and projected student enrollment, the growth of the district and school building capacities at each of the 30-minute conversations.
The conversations will take place on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Plain City Public Library; Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Pleasant Valley Fire Department Community Room; and Friday, Oct. 25 at 8 a.m. at Der Dutchman.
Cory Guindon, administrative assistant for the district, said Chapman frequently hosts similar events to engage local residents based on whatever is currently the “hot topic.”
“We want to make sure there is ample communication with our families and taxpayers… even with people who might not have children in the district,” she said.
Specifically, Chapman said he will share information from the district’s enrollment projection studies, which were completed over the summer.
A recently concluded study revealed that enrollment in the Jonathan Alder Local School District has increased by 205 students since the 2009-10 school year. Enrollment peaked in the 2014-15 school year with 2,303 students. The study concluded that enrollment is projected to increase over the next ten years.
According to a presentation created by the district, each of the schools’ current enrollment numbers were below the functioning capacities of their buildings.
Data from the same presentation showed 221 students enrolled at Monroe Elementary, 641 at Plain City Elementary, 356 at Canaan Middle School, 354 at Jonathan Alder Junior High School and 745 at Jonathan Alder High School.
Chapman said the 2019 enrollment numbers are “as expected” across the district.
The data also includes projections for the 2028 school year. Enrollment at each of the schools is expected to increase, aside from the high school, which is projected to see a slight drop.
At the community meetings, Chapman said he will speak about how this growth will impact the district. He said he will also touch on planned and unplanned development surrounding it.
Points to consider, as listed in the presentation, include how growth will affect the economy, water and sewage infrastructure, boundary changes, the open enrollment policy and potential new housing activity.
He said his goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible to inform local residents of updates within the district.
“Our schools – we serve our community and we want our community to be involved in our schools,” Chapman said.
The community conversations are open to the public and Chapman invited residents to ask questions during them.
The public meetings came at the recommendation of a district-wide strategic planning committee. Earlier this month the committee talked about “perspectives that are being repeated by our community regarding the impact of growth on JA schools and our district.”
The meetings, officials said, would be used to control those rumors.
In March, Tim Hamilton, community engagement specialist and former assistant superintendent of operations at Hilliard City Schools, met with the committee and shared his experience during Hilliard’s growth.
Hamilton recommended community panels to make sure community knows what’s being planned. He recommended district leadership meet with community members once or twice a year and offer additional meetings with various community leaders and stakeholders.

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