On Monday night I attended the City of Worthington’s UMCH development plan meeting. If you have not seen the plans to develop UMCH you’ll want to review the website UMCHDevelopment.com where you will have the opportunity to review the proposal and provide feedback to the city. As part of the the redevelopment process the school district is often asked what we will do with any new students that the new residential development would produce? This is a fair question, but one that is difficult to answer.
From a school district standpoint we believe that it is premature to discuss the enrollment of specific elementary buildings and how that impacts the school assignments for future residential developments. It is safe to say that we currently have available space in elementary schools (and in middle and high schools) throughout the district though we could not guarantee student placement in the nearest school.
Now, this sounds like we’re trying not to answer the question. And, that may be true in some respects, but here’s why. In the particular case of UMCH the plans presented are in the early concept phase. It’s impossible at this point for us to determine how many students would attend out of this area. When plans are finalized we will have better data on which to base a projection. For instance, the number of single family homes greatly impacts our projections. The presupposition is that the more single family homes in the area, the more students the schools will see.
Secondly, when determining student assignment to schools the UMCH development cannot be looked at in isolation. Worthington Schools serves an area much larger than the City of Worthington and we currently have several other residential developments that could impact student assignment. The District at Linworth is currently building and leasing 228 garden and townhouse style apartments at 161 and Linworth Road. Likewise there is significant building of new apartments in the Crosswoods area of Columbus. Finally, we see houses all over Worthington turning over in a hot real estate market and often when a Worthington house turns over it means new students for Worthington Schools. Thus, where we have capacity for new students today may be different than where we have capacity for new students by the time a UMCH redevelopment is complete.
In the meantime, our board of education recently approved a resolution that will allow Worthington Schools to partner with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). The OFCC will work with Worthington to complete studies on enrollment projections, school student capacity, facility studies and comprehensive master planning. These studies will provide the school district with the data needed to work with our community to make decisions as redevelopment continues across our school district.
Worthington is a great community! That’s not a secret. Houses in Worthington are very hard to come by and developers want to work in Worthington. Responsible redevelopment is a good thing. It means we’re growing again and it means people want to invest in this community. But, it also means change and it means that as a school district we need to work hard to make certain we are positioned to continue to provide great spaces for our kids in connected community centered environments.
So, where will those students go to school?
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent (1st day on the job…)