I 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