Licking Heights levy aims to relieve overcrowding in school district


PATASKALA, OH (WCMH) – The superintendent at Licking Heights School District says overcrowding is now starting to affect students’ academic performance. A levy on the November 8th ballot aims to fix that, but some voters say they won’t support a tax increase.

“We are just so overcrowded, all of our buildings are well beyond the capacity for which they’re built,” says superintendent Dr. Philip Wagner.

The high school and middle school each have six trailers outside the main buildings, used as extra classrooms. It’s just one way teachers are trying to make do with limited space and a growing student body.

“Unfortunately there’s not enough space for me to have a classroom, so I teach for sections of world studies on my cart over here,” says social studies teacher Stephen Meyer.

Meyer teaches at the high school. He travels to four different classrooms per day, going in and out of the building to the trailers.

“We have to design our curriculum to accommodate not having a classroom,” he says. “We’re trying to do things that work best for the students and unfortunately we can’t always meet their needs with having a cart.”

Other teachers in other schools also have to teach out of a cart. Some art classes are held in the hallways and computer labs are in closets.

Dr. Wagner says in order not to break fire code in the cafeteria at the high school, extra lunch tables have to be put in the gym. That means no P.E. class for three periods.

“We’re at the point now where the facilities are compromising the teaching and learning,” says Dr. Wagner.

He says academic performance is beginning to slip, while student numbers continue to increase. Currently, district enrollment exceeds building capacity by nearly 500 students.

“There is nowhere else to put the students,” says Dr. Wagner.

He says they need to build a new high school, which would solve the overcrowding issue and provide room for growth.

A levy on the November 8th ballot aims to create $20.7 million in local revenue, that will be matched by the state to build the new facility by 2020.

“I won’t vote for it,” says Pataskala resident Rick Clark. “Too much taxes already and there’s too much waste in the school system.”

But, some voters say they’re tired of paying for more taxes.

“All of these big businesses moving in around here and are getting tax breaks. When is the public going to get a tax break?” says Clark. “I think there’s too many people in the upper management of the school that’s getting a big paycheck.”

Other say they just can’t afford it, especially retired Pataskala resident William War.

“I get more taxes… I don’t get any more money. My Social Security stays the same,” says Ward.

Dr. Wagner says passing this measure would cost the average homeowner about $14 more per month. This is the third time they’ve tried to pass a levy like this to build a new facility.

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