Why do we need more space?

IMG_7747I have lived in the same Worthington neighborhood for the past 13 years.  When my wife and I got married 24 years ago, we didn’t envision owning a split-level house built in 1958.  However, we love Worthington and so the house we own matters less than where it sits and much less than whom we get to raise our children around.  Apparently, many others feel the same way. In the last month, two of my neighbors put their houses up for sale. Both received multiple offers the day their house went on the market.  If current trends hold true, both houses will likely be sold to families with young children and eventually, that will increase the enrollment of Worthington Schools.

Since 2012 Worthington Schools has grown by around 1,200 students.  We opened this school year at 10,363 students. We last had that many students in Worthington Schools in 2001.  From 2001 to 2012 enrollment dropped by 1,200 students as all new home building went north to Delaware County. Our enrollment began to decline around 1998.  Over the last six years, we have seen incredible housing turnover throughout the school district resulting in similar enrollment growth. During the enrollment decline, we reduced many teaching positions and even closed some schools.  Now with our growth and those previously closed schools serving students in different ways we need to add staff back and add capacity to serve our students.

Since Worthington Schools once held 10,400 students in 2001 and currently holds 10,363 students in 2018, many people have asked me why we do not have the capacity needed to educate students in our current buildings?  This is a very fair question and one that is best explained by a national shift over the last 20 years to more specialized mandated programming. We don’t educate students in Worthington the same way we did in 2001, and for the most part, you wouldn’t want us to.

Here are some numbers to help you understand the shift that has occurred:

Total Enrollment:  2001 – 10,400 / 2018 – 10,363

Special Education Students:  2001 – 920 / 2018 – 1,512

Special Education Teachers:  2001 – 61 / 2018 – 104

Autism Classrooms:  2001 – 0 / 2018 – 13

English Language Learner Teachers:  2001 – 9 / 2018 – 19

Preschool Classrooms:  2001 – 3 / 2018 – 17

All-Day Kindergarten Classes: 2001 – 0 / 2018 – 18

All-Day Kindergarten is an optional program that we choose to offer because we think it adds value to our families.  All of our special education (including preschool) and English language programs are programs that we value and think are outstanding for our students.  They’re also mandatory programs. Each of our specialized programs takes up more classroom space than our regular education programming did in 2001. Thus, we utilize space differently and need more capacity for our programs than we did back then. 

As houses continue to turn over in Worthington like they are turning over on my street, our enrollment projections show that we can expect to grow by at least another 800 students over the next five years.  We all understand why – we believe Worthington is a great community to raise our kids in. As a school district, we need additional educational space to meet the needs of today’s learners!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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One thought on “Why do we need more space?

  1. Stephanie Donaldson says:

    This message is so important for parents and the community to hear and understand, excellent post, Dr. Bowers. Two important takeaways for the voters of our District; this isn’t your parent’s school experience anymore AND you can’t use data alone to review a school district. Yes, currently, Worthington Schools has fewer students (10,363) than it did in 2001 (10,400) – there’s that data; however, those attendance numbers, 2018 versus 2001 are as useless to compare as apples to oranges. The educational experience of today’s students in a mandated world of aggressive curriculum, legislated assessment requirements for advancement in grade or graduation, pressure from higher education to deliver competitive students, and meeting the demands of concerned and stressed students, parents, and educators leaves me longing for 2001. This isn’t your parent’s school experience anymore. Not listed by Dr. Bower’s but bringing more to the 2018 student population even if the headcount is the same –

    Additional counseling and mental health needs – from earlier identification of dyslexia to safety in buildings, to managing student anxiety, everyone acknowledges the increased need and value of adding these services, regardless of the attendance number. Early detection, we have learned, can change a student’s world or save their life. Same number of students, more need.

    Credit recovery and graduation rates – parents today joke about trying to help their 8th grader with their math homework and not being able to do it, yes, students today are under more academic pressure then they were in 2001. The District is in the business of educating and graduating students, this is their mission. Worthington Schools identified an additional need, given the pace and pressure of today’s high school curriculum, and they created the Worthington Academy, providing students with the opportunity for credit recovery and a high school diploma. Isn’t that what public education is here for? To build an educated citizenry? The District saw, “the able, not the label” and students are graduating who otherwise, for possibly as little as a 1/2 credit class, weren’t gaining a high school diploma. More students needing the opportunity for credit recovery in 2018, same attendance number as 2001.

    Alternative and college credit options – same number of students in the District but who could have imagined in 2001 that today’s students are earning as much as one to two years worth of college credit prior to graduating from high school in 2018?
    The drive for more “advanced” academic prep from legislators and college tuition weary parents has added demand for honors/AP/IB/CC+ courses not to mention the creation of specialized learning academies from STEM to business. In addition, the District offers both an alternative middle school (new since 2001) and an alternative high school for students that learn from a different perspective. Same number of students, more programs.

    Here’s that takeaway – in 2018, this isn’t your parent’s school experience anymore AND you can’t use data alone to review a school district. It’s enough to say, in 2018, Worthington Schools needs more resources than it did in 2001. 10,000 students then, and 10,000 students now deserve a shot at a fair and decent public education. That hasn’t changed since 2001.

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