On March 25th our Feeder Pattern Committee presented recommendations to our Board of Education (view the slide show here.) The committee recommended that Slate Hill elementary move to WKHS. That means that current 6th graders at Slate Hill will attend Worthingway for 7th and 8th grade but will then move to WKHS as 9th graders in the fall of 2021. Over a number of years, we will see a balance between the schools.
Next fall the Feeder Pattern Committee will reconvene to determine which elementary schools feed into which middle schools. These recommendations were part of a long-term plan that we presented to our community for approval in the way of a ballot issue in the the fall of 2018 and 70% of the community voted to support the passage of the bond issue. Because Worthington continues to grow, I recognize that many of you may not have even been in Worthington when we assembled our Master Facilities Planning team and created the plan that is the foundation for all of the change we are beginning to implement.
In Worthington, our plan began in 2015 with a partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. This State of Ohio organization brought teams of architects and construction experts to walk each Worthington school. They provided individual assessments of every system within our schools. Based upon the OFCC reports, we learned that to bring our schools up to a statewide standard we needed $260 million worth of replacements and renovations.
After receiving the OFCC assessments, we partnered with Cooperative Strategies to create a facilities master plan. Sixty-one community members led by community chairs Nikki Hudson and Amy Lloyd invested 18 months to create a plan that would address our aging buildings, balance high school enrollment and create capacity for all students. (Our enrollment has grown by 1,200 students in the last five years and is projected to continue to grow by another 800 students in the next five years.)
We intended to come forward with this plan in phases. Phase One required funding of approximately $89 million dollars and was passed by the community this fall as issue 9. This plan provides capacity for our elementary schools by moving 6th grade to the middle school in the fall of 2021. It will address our aging buildings by rebuilding Worthingway Middle School and Perry Middle School (Perry would reopen as a 6-8 grade middle school, while Phoenix and Worthington Academy and Rockbridge remain on that site). The plan balances high school enrollment by moving to 4 traditional middle schools (plus Phoenix) with two middle schools feeding to each high school and by moving a current TWHS feeder elementary to the WKHS feeder pattern.
This is just Phase One of our plan. We’ll propose to come back to the community in 2022 with Phase Two of the plan and likely back again around 2026 with Phase Three of the plan. By phasing the work we are able to maintain our state-mandated debt limits and hopefully make the work more affordable for community members.
Certainly, Phase One does not solve every issue in Worthington. As our enrollment continues to climb, we have multiple elementary schools that have exceeded their capacity. Redistricting our students is not an option that will solve our capacity issues because all schools are utilizing their full allotment of classroom space (even Sutter Park and Phoenix). However, when we rebuild several elementary schools in Phase Two, they will be rebuilt larger than they currently are and redistricting would need to occur at that time. (I’d project that to be around 2024.) Therefore, we will continue to overflow students to other schools when they enroll in a specific grade level without space. We have already added modular classrooms at Colonial Hills and Worthington Hills and next year we will add modulars at Bluffsview, Evening Street and McCord until Phase One of our plan is complete (Fall of 2021), we will add modular classrooms at schools as they are needed.
This three-phase multi-year plan is the foundation for all of our current work. However, as change becomes more clear, people are beginning to question why we’re taking the path we are. Some are asking us to consider different paths. These ideas make sense but they were vetted considerably by the Master Facilities Task Force. That team made many very difficult decisions and our work now is to implement the plan that was proposed and accepted. As a district, we’re working to do just that.
- Trent Bowers, Superintendent
This is post one of a two-part series. Learn more about our plan at: https://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/domain/1117