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Wabash schools looking to expand

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

Superintendent Jason Callahan informed the Wabash City School board that their student population is outgrowing their facilities during a school board meeting Monday.

Callahan said a study conducted by the Community Foundation of Wabash County in 2017 forecasted a growth of 102 in-district students between the 2016-17 school year and the 2021-22 school year.

“I think the important thing is over the next decade to look at these numbers that say we’re going to grow by about 100 kids,” he said. “The other important piece to remember is that this is assuming that transfer numbers hold steady.”

Callahan said the projection doesn’t cover out of district students. In the 2015-16 year, the corporation added 109 out of district students and is now at 305 out of district students.

“That is a 219 percent increase, or 196 students,” he said. “Just to drive that point home, this is on top of (the study’s) number holding static.”

In the 2014-15 school year, WCS submitted a total student count of 1,466, which dipped the next year by 54 most likely due to the closing of W.C. Mills Elementary School in 2014, Callahan said. WCS counted 1,507 students in the 2016-17 school year and has been adding more since. Now they’re at 1,581 students, according to Indiana Department of Education data, and Callahan is asking the board to consider expanding facilities.

OJ Neighbors currently has at least one portable classroom to house students during the school day. Callahan said the schools are likely to “grow significantly and quickly.”

“It’s a major story, because these numbers are going to drive everything that we do,” Callahan said.

Board members added that an added benefit of a “good problem,” like rapid student population growth, is the increased funding from the state. At the meeting, board members said receiving around $6,900 per student from the IDOE supplements about 40 percent of their budget. 

“The vast majority (of our budget) is coming from state dollars that are tied to each individual student that comes in,” he said.

Callahan said they’ll likely ask the same company who completed their cafeteria renovations to design any future projects to house student growth. He said future work may include combining Wabash High School and Wabash Middle School and an expansion project at OJ Neighbors.

He said the board can expect some public presentations of possible options for expansion at future meetings.