After a year- long process of gathering feedback from the community and through multiple meetings with a community-led task force, we are asking all members of our community to attend another meeting to provide us further feedback (5/31 TWHS Auditorium, 6:30 P.M.) Thank you to the hundreds of community members that provided their feedback during our previous meetings in September, December and March. You have helped shape this plan.
We are currently putting the final touches on several options that will be presented to the Board of Education sometime later this summer. This was originally set for March 22nd and then June 12th. At this point getting it done correctly is more important than meeting an arbitrary date and thus we believe it will likely be after June 12th, but will communicate the selected date out to the community as widely as possible. As a Board of Education Member recently shared, “The entire Facilities Project is starting to take on the aura of the old Rubiks Cube – where you get one or two sides exactly the way you want them only to find that another side is completely out of whack.” There are no easy answers for Worthington in this process.
As we get ready for our community meeting tomorrow night I want to share some of the most frequent questions I am asked about this process.
Why do we need a Master Facilities Plan?
The two main reasons are 1) our growing student enrollment and 2) the condition of our aging school buildings.
After years of declining enrollment, Worthington is actually growing?
It may be hard to believe in a “landlocked” school district, but we are seeing a dramatic increase in our student enrollment – 877 more students since 2012 and an additional 800 projected in the next 5 years. Worthington is currently in the top ten in student enrollment growth in the entire state of Ohio. Our buildings are nearing or at capacity – currently there is only one empty classroom in the entire district!
This is an urgent situation that has caused the district to implement short-term solutions such as, having Evening Street’s sixth grade students attend Kilbourne Middle School and the placement of temporary classroom trailers at Colonial Hills Elementary School and Worthington Hills Elementary School. We see these as temporary solutions to a real challenge that is not going away in the future. It’s important that we come up with a responsible plan that creates stability in our school buildings and is flexible enough to accommodate changes in enrollment.
Didn’t you maintain the buildings properly?
Despite the ongoing work of our maintenance staff, many of our school buildings are near or past their lifespan. With some buildings well past the half-century mark, the infrastructure inside the walls – plumbing, heating and cooling, roofing, and electrical systems are breaking down and inefficient. This is much like what we all experience in our homes when our own roofs, furnaces and windows start to age.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission analyzed each and every school building in our district and identified 7 of our 19 school buildings in need of replacement. That means when the cost of renovating a school building exceeds two-thirds of the cost of replacing the building, OFCC recommends that the district replace the building.
What about redistricting?
Due to our enrollment challenges, there is no way to avoid some level of redistricting. The question really becomes, how much is necessary? In some areas our current facilities simply will not and currently cannot fit all students.
In addition, we have a growing imbalance in our high school enrollment where Thomas Worthington is at and beyond capacity and Worthington Kilbourne is well below the amount of students it can serve. That could potentially impact programming and opportunities at both schools.
Who is responsible for developing the plan?
Mainly, our community members. The district is working with construction and facilities experts, but we are mostly relying on the work of our 50- member, community-led Facilities Task Force to come up with a plan. The task force is putting in some long hours trying to solve the trifecta of puzzles (enrollment growth, aging facilities, high school balance) in a manner that is cost efficient yet educationally sound. We have also hosted three community-wide meetings, conducted multiple online questionnaires, and a telephone survey to gather feedback from all residents.
Haven’t you already decided what you want to do?
No. The work of the Master Facilities Plan is being guided by the feedback of our community and the work of the citizen-led Facilities Task Force.
What are the solutions the Task Force is considering now?
There are many ways for the community to address these challenges and some of the possible options include:
- Building and replacing schools to update old infrastructures and accommodate growth.
- Changing elementary grade configurations by moving all six graders to middle school.
- Balancing enrollment at our high schools to offer equitable programs and extracurricular offerings for both schools.
- Consolidating all alternative programs – Linworth High School, Phoenix Middle School and Worthington Academy -to one centralized campus.
What if we did nothing?
The reality is there is no “zero cost” option. Doing nothing means the district will have to invest in costly, short-term fixes such as temporary trailers at many of our schools and year-to-year decisions for school building enrollment. We are also spending more dollars patching and repairing our aging schools which could impact the dollars we spend in the classroom.
As a community Worthington is thriving. Houses are selling and young families are moving in. That is causing significant enrollment growth. That growth is a good thing but it also necessitates change. We’re attempting to work to create change that is beneficial to the current students of Worthington Schools and also puts Worthington in a strong position for years to come.
I hope to see you tomorrow night!
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent