Master Facility Planning

colonialThe first few days of the 2016-2017 school year are off to a great start!  While we’ve just begun this school year we’re actively working to prepare for our shared future.

In Worthington, our schools are a great source of pride in the community and we are grateful for the support our residents provide year after year.  In order to protect our residents’ investment in our schools, from time to time we analyze the way we do business to ensure we deliver on the quality and efficiency our community expects, including our school buildings.

Last year, the district engaged construction and school facilities experts to analyze the efficiency of our school buildings – both from a financial and educational standpoint.  The research revealed some of our buildings are in great shape and are in need of some minor maintenance, while others could use extensive renovation or even replacement. That makes sense when you consider that some of our newest school buildings are 25 years old, while several of our schools are 50 years old and were not built with today’s learning in mind.  We have done an excellent job with upkeep on the buildings, however, it’s not the appearance of the buildings that concerns us.   It is the out-of-date infrastructure behind the walls (i.e. plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling) that is becoming more and more costly.  Also, our student enrollment is growing! Families are moving to Worthington because of our great community and excellent schools. Managing this increased enrollment has impacted our school buildings in different ways.

We are working with the community and our educational leaders to come up with a long-term plan so that our schools can continue to offer vital programming and the variety of opportunities for students that our community expects and values.  We are also committed to delivery of an excellent education in the most financially efficient manner possible.  Before any decision is made about the future of our school buildings, we plan to engage our community with a 12-month master facilities planning process. The district will work with students, parents, community members and facilities experts to explore all options to determine the direction of facilities and enrollment planning for Worthington’s schools.

There are no preconceived notions or decisions made about what the future will hold once this process is complete. We are encouraging all residents to be a part of this vital conversation that will shape the future of our schools and community for generations to come.

At tonight’s (8.22.16) Worthington Board of Education meeting the planning firm of DeJong-Richter will present an overview of the planning process to our Board of Education.  (7:30 P.M. at 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road).  If you’re interested in this process please consider attending the meeting in person, watching the live stream at http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/3176 and/or checking out our Master Facility Planning webpage: http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/3365

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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WorthingtonStrong

strongFrom a friend of mine, who I respect greatly, I recently heard that “the wound is where the light gets in.”  On Friday (8.12.16) our Worthington Kilbourne Girls Water Polo team was in a terrible accident.  The accident resulted in the tragic death of Worthington graduate Courtney Fisher and in the significant injury of four Worthington Kilbourne water polo players and Courtney’s mom.  I think I can speak for our entire community when I say my heart is broken for the families involved in this accident.  

This morning I was able to visit the families and our young ladies who are in the hospital.  All of our girls are still in Toledo hospitals and are still in intensive care.  As a community we are wounded.  Yet, there is light.  The overall feeling in the hospital is one of hopefulness.  Currently, we believe that each of our girls will recover.  They sustained significant injuries and it will likely be a long road of recovery.  But today when I gave Betsey Fisher a new Worthington T-Shirt, she immediately found a way to get it on over her head and to pose for pictures with her friends.  That’s what teenage girls do and we want nothing more than for our girls to return to being typical teenage girls.

And there has been much more light.  I believe most every public school district in the Columbus area has reached out and offered us support and any resources we may need.  The water polo and swimming community has been amazing.  The team from Upper Arlington attended our vigil last night.  The team from Napoleon sent well wishes and the President of St. Francis DeSales in Toledo visited our families in the hospital and offered any support our community might need while in Toledo.  Our girls water polo coach has spent all of the last three days traveling back and forth to Toledo.  While I was in Toledo this morning one of our teachers from Worthington Kilbourne High School came into the hospital room and I was told it’s the second day in a row he has made the trip.  

Although it shouldn’t, sometimes it takes a tragedy such as this for us to stop our busy lives and focus on what matters most.  I’ve seen people from all over Worthington and all over Ohio do just that and their response has been overwhelming.  Our challenge will be to mobilize our resources and to make sure our response to helping our families is not short-term, but instead the long-term support that will inevitably be needed.  Together we’ll meet that challenge.

I’m proud to serve the Worthington community.  Our students will return to school on Wednesday of this week and while we’ve recently suffered a great tragedy, our professionals will rise-up and make certain that all 10,000 students who enter our doors receive a warm, kind, positive, and energetic start to their school year.  It’s O.K. to be positive.  We’re going to make sure this is an amazing school year in Worthington Schools.  There is light.  We’re WorthingtonStrong!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Changes in Elementary Food-At-School Practices

IMG_7722We begin the 16-17 school year in Worthington next Wednesday, August 17th.  As the new year begins we will be making some changes in how we deal with food in our elementary schools.  As we continue to change and evolve we recognize that many of our students are dealing with significant food allergies or dangerous medical issues such as childhood diabetes.  By making some adjustments to our policies and practices this year we will be able to provide our students with a safer school environment.

In case you are not familiar with the seriousness of food allergies today, researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.  This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. and that’s roughly two students in every classroom.  According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why.

Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

In Worthington Schools our food service team will no longer sell peanut butter products in our elementary school cafeterias.  In addition, we have instituted a new interactive food service menu which will allow you to view nutrition information for each food, filter the menu for specific food allergies, and see the carb counts for each food.  You can view the new interactive menu here: http://worthington.nutrislice.com/

In addition, while at school, we will ask our teachers to no longer use food as a routine incentive for students in class.  Maybe an even larger shift is that while we want to acknowledge and celebrate each student’s birthday because doing so is an expression of each child’s special place in the world and our school community, we will be asking for parent cooperation in celebrating birthdays in the classroom without food of any kind (we may still celebrate with pencils, stickers, games, puzzles, etc.. but not with food).  Once again, with the growing presence of food-borne allergies and student medical limitations, these moves will help ensure the well-being of each child.

Later this week all elementary parents will receive an email that will outline these changes in more detail and also discuss how we plan to handle school and classroom parties as well as parent-provided snacks during the school day.  Please look for this email in your inbox Thursday or Friday.

While these changes may be difficult at first, by partnering together we hope to make our classrooms safer for all students.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Here are a few links that I would encourage you to explore which I hope will help you understand why we are choosing to make these changes:

Discovery Documentary:  Food Allergies in America

A Letter From an Annoying Peanut Allergy Mom

Dear Teacher Of My Food Allergic Child

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Happy August!

AugustIt’s been a good summer.  We’ve been to the beach, we’ve spent long days at the Worthington Pool and we’ve spent nights around the fire pit and forgotten about bed times.  But, at least in our house, there are three girls ready to go back to school.  They may not admit it, but they’ve had a little too much together time and they’re getting a little (maybe a lot) grouchy with one another.  

Happy August!  In Worthington Schools it’s the most wonderful time of the year!  In just 16 days we’ll welcome around 10,000 students back to school.  School officially begins in Worthington on Wednesday, August 17th.  Our fall sports officially begin today.  You’ll see football teams and field hockey teams on the practice fields and you’ll hear our marching bands on the front lawns of our high schools.  Our school offices will all be open this week and over the next two weeks there will be schedule pick-ups, back to school ice cream socials, and  open houses.  We’re back!  I hope you’re ready for a great school year!

As you begin to plan for this upcoming year there are a few quirks to our school calendar you should plan for.  The first is that Worthington will be in school (K-12) on election day, Nov. 8th.  Many area school districts will take this day off.  After working with the Franklin County Board of Elections we have been able to move voting out of all of our elementary school buildings.  Voting will occur at Worthington Kilbourne High School, Thomas Worthington High School and Phoenix.  We believe that those facilities can manage voting on that day.  To be extra careful, we will have a police officer on campus to make sure it is a safe environment.  We’re excited by this change because it allows us to continue with a five day school week and also to support the democratic process.  

Spring Break is late this year.  We’re scheduled for Spring Break the week of April 10th – April 14th.  This aligns with the Easter holiday but it’s later than is ideal for those who participate in Spring sports and is fairly close to the end of our school year.  Our students graduate on Sunday, May 21st and the last day of school for everyone else is Wednesday, May 24th.  

You can access this year’s district calendar here.  You’ll also want to access individual back-to-school dates at our district website.  Can’t wait to see you soon!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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A Community Conversation on the Heroin Epidemic

DSworthlogoAs a parent raising my children in Worthington there are many things that cause me concern.  I think that’s the nature of raising kids in society today and I feel really lucky that our family is connected to an amazing community and we have access to significant resources.  In 2016, one of the things that gives me the most fear is Heroin.

In the United States we have an epidemic of Opiate addiction and Heroin.  It’s affecting communities across the country and unfortunately, Worthington is no different.  Last fall 60 Minutes ran a story entitled “Heroin in the Heartland.”  As part of this story, a graduate from Worthington Kilbourne High School was interviewed.    The premise of the CBS story is that heroin is cheap, easy to get, and in the words of CBS, “used by the kids next door.”

Sadly, there is nothing in this news story that is surprising to many of us.  For several years now we have worked with families whose children have become addicted to prescription pain medication and/or heroin.  We’ve lost several Worthington graduates to this epidemic.  What we’ve learned through working with these families is that addiction can happen to anyone.  The families affected by this addiction are “good” families who have “good” kids.  Unfortunately, once addiction begins, it is very, very difficult to overcome.

As a school district we have worked to be proactive in our approach to educating students and families about opiate abuse. We have partnered with organizations such as “Drug Safe Worthington” to bring in speakers for our students and families. We’ve hosted “Tyler’s Light” and “Operation Street Smart” multiple times in order to better educate our community.  Several years ago we partnered with the Worthington Police so they could  implement a prescription drug drop box so residents could easily dispose of pain medication (this is critical as most opiate addiction begins as prescription pain medication abuse found in family medicine cabinets before escalating to heroin).

On August 1st we will be partnering with the City of Worthington, Drug Safe Worthington, Senator Rob Portman, Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to participate in a community conversation on the Heroin epidemic.  The event will be hosted by the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington and is scheduled to begin at 5:30 P.M.  Those who attend will learn about the disease of addiction, warning signs and preventive measures as well as have an opportunity to converse with experts who will answer questions and connect families with resources.

By partnering together as a community we will make Worthington a safer place for all of our children.  Please consider attending this event.  You can RSVP to Stephen White at Stephen_White@portman.senate.gov

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Ohio’s Start Talking! Youth Drug Prevention Initiative

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Last week we wrote about the book Dreamland which looks at America’s Opiate addiction.  This week we wanted to pass on some information from the Ohio Start Talking campaign which I hope is a helpful resource for Worthington families.  – Trent Bowers, Superintendent

“Summer break is upon us, and for tweens and teens this means no homework, plenty of free time and less supervision. While a majority of youth will find healthy ways to keep busy, some, unfortunately, will use their unsupervised freedom to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Now that your kids are no longer in school, how can you be sure that they will stay out of trouble this summer? How do you know that they won’t get involved with drugs? It’s time to Start Talking!

Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and First Lady Karen W. Kasich launched the Start Talking! youth drug prevention initiative to give parents, guardians, educators and community leaders the tools to start the conversation with youth about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives. Whether it’s at the swimming pool, on the baseball diamond, around a campfire or at a family picnic, Start Talking! gives adults research-based tools and resources to help prevent substance abuse before it starts.

Start Talking! is rooted in national research that shows teens whose parents talk to them about the dangers of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use than children who do not have these critical conversations with a trusted adult.

The initiative features three main components:

1) Know! provides free, twice monthly emails that offer Parent Tips to families to help them talk about the risks and consequences of drug abuse.

2) Parents 360Rx features a free, downloadable toolkit to help communities come together to support local prevention efforts. The toolkit includes a video, discussion guide, handouts and other resources to decrease the risk of children taking illegal drugs or abusing prescription medicines.

3) 5 Minutes for Life is a program led by the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Ohio National Guard and local law enforcement in partnership with high schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Troopers, law enforcement officers and Guard members talk to student athletes to encourage them to become ambassadors who lead peer-to-peer conversations that promote healthy lifestyles.

Here are more ways you can encourage your kids to make smart, healthy decisions this summer:

  1. Take advantage of life’s teachable moments to reinforce the drug-free message.
  2. Don’t let them go to unsupervised parties
  3. Maintain an open channel of communication
  4. Keep unsupervised time to a minimum
  5. Always know who they’re with and what they’re doing
  6. Acknowledge and reward positive behaviors
  7. Encourage them get involved in summer activities
  8. Help them find a job
  9. Set a good example

We all can play a role in preventing youth drug use. Don’t underestimate the effect that the things that you say and do have on shaping your children’s opinions and attitudes towards life. Be upbeat and driven, be compassionate and caring, be a role model, be a talker and a listener.

Visit www.StartTalking.ohio.gov to get started. Follow Start Talking! on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more details as they become available.  Have a safe, healthy summer!”

by Sarah Smith, Director

Ohio’s Start Talking! Youth Drug Prevention Initiative

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Dreamland

DreamlandAs a 43 year old man working in public education I end up in many conversations that begin with “kids today….”  Undoubtedly the person I am talking with is describing how the current generation of teenagers is somehow not as well behaved as “our” generation was.  What’s interesting is that our internal survey data does not show that.  Actually our internal survey data shows that students today participate in less risky behaviors than students of previous generations did.  They’re more discerning and show better judgment.  Certainly some things have changed over the past 20 years.  For one, our recent survey data shows that our students believe that marijuana use is more acceptable and less risky than is cigarette usage.  This surprised me but it probably shouldn’t have as national norms have certainly shifted here.  And then there is heroin.  Our community, like every community in Ohio, has been hit by heroin.  Often I’m asked the question, “How did we get to this point?  What would make a teenager try heroin?”  These are legitimate questions and if you really want to know the answers you need to read Dreamland by Sam Quinones.

I just finished reading Dreamland and was fascinated from the first page until the last.  Here’s what the Christian Science Monitor had to say about the book:

“At least 300,000 Americans use heroin, according to the latest statistics. From 2010 to 2013, the number of deaths from overdoses tripled from 3,036 to 8,257. Not coincidentally, since 1999 the number of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the United States has quadrupled, although incidents of chronic pain have not. Heroin use thrives on a disturbing symbiosis with painkiller addiction: 3 out of 4 new heroin users have reported they had previously abused prescription painkillers.  

And these twin addictions have spread in places one wouldn’t expect: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee. The face of opiate addiction is no longer the inner-city homeless or actors in Greenwich Village. It’s suburban white kids in Columbus, soccer moms in Nashville, rural men in West Virginia.

For decades US pharmaceutical companies had been trying to create a non-addictive drug that could effectively control chronic pain. The 1995 FDA approval of Oxycontin, a drug almost chemically identical to heroin, occurred when insurance companies were increasingly reluctant to cover long-term treatment of chronic pain via effective but expensive techniques such as physical therapy and counseling. Purdue Pharma, which owned the patent to Oxycontin, reassured everyone it was non-addictive. When the company sales representatives cited non-existent studies demonstrating that Oxycontin could be used safely to treat chronic pain, doctors were all too willing to listen. Soon patients were hooked. People who didn’t suffer chronic pain but had heard about Oxycontin’s effects were eager to try it. And retirees who could get prescriptions began selling the pills to supplement their retirement income. Scams for getting and selling the drug multiplied.

Then the Xalisco Boys came to town. One of the finest narrative and journalistic accomplishments in this book is Quinones’s portrait of this drug-dealing network whose members are both business paragons and criminal geniuses. They all come from a poppy-growing region of Northwest Mexico and sell black tar heroin, which is cheap, potent, and easy to make. Their dealers are paid a salary, so they have no incentive to dilute their product to maximize sales. Since violence almost always draws the attention of cops, the dealers seldom carry guns.  And since police and the press like big drug busts, large quantities of heroin in one location or with one dealer are rare. And they have a customer service ethos that matches Apple’s or Trader Joe’s, along with a delivery policy similar in spirit to “Domino’s 30 minutes or less:” Did a customer feel overcharged? Was the driver late? You’ll get free extra heroin next time. Was a driver unfriendly? Expect an apologetic phone call from his boss.

The Xalisco Boys also multiplied their return on investment in superior product and customer service by seeking out territories where there were no competitors. They avoided the American Southwest and the biggest cities, which were overflowing with drug dealers. The untapped markets were in places like the dying industrial Midwest, where members of families deep in second-generation unemployment were desperate for something that would make them feel like (in the words of one drug user) “king of the world.” They had already discovered Oxycontin and doctors who would write a prescription without asking questions. And if that doctor got caught, the Xalisco Boys were ready to step in with a product that gave the same high. And no more waiting in line at the pharmacy: The Xalisco Boys delivered.”

This is the story of how opiate addiction spread and it’s something we all should read.  Please pass the word.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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