Opportunity Knocks Part Three – The challenge with the current site

ColonialGoogleSometimes opportunity knocks and something unexpected comes up that you feel needs to be pursued.  In Worthington Schools, we’re in that position right now with a 13.7-acre piece of property that would be an ideal site to build a new Colonial Hills Elementary School on.   The property sits off 161 on the east side of the school district and has commonly been known for years as The Harding Property. Currently, the land is owned by the I Am Boundless company.   

This blog post is designed to outline the challenges with the current Colonial Hills site.   It was preceded by a post that explained our current situation and a post that explained how we arrived at this point.  You’ll want to read all three posts for the full picture.

The current Colonial Hills site while charming, is very difficult.  Rebuilding schools in established neighborhoods will be difficult at many of our school sites throughout the district, however, Colonial presents an extraordinary challenge.  The school sits on a 12 acre site that is divided by a wooded ravine. The school is North of the ravine and was built in 1958. School buses are unable to access the site and must load and unload on Colonial Avenue.  Students may traverse the ravine to find grass to play on at recess. Architects have told us that we could potentially rebuild on this site with a two story school. However, to do so we would need to move Colonial Hills students to another undetermined location for at least a year and in order to create a site where buses could enter and exit we may need to work to purchase some of the current surrounding houses.  The current access to the school is not sufficient for buses.

Another option would be to flip the site and build the school on what we call “South field.”  This would allow us to use Colonial Hills as a school during construction but it is still a limited land site divided by a ravine and we would need to clear several acres of trees.  Additionally, the road going in and out of South field in the Rush Creek neighborhood would likely create significant congestion.  

Both of these options are doable but both are less than ideal.  Naturally the question I expect many residents to ask is “if this were to move forward what would happen to the current Colonial Hills site?”  The honest answer is that we don’t know. We’ll want to monitor enrollment for the next several years. It’s possible the school district will want to continue to educate students there for a period of time if our enrollment continues to grow.  It’s possible that we would want to sell the land to a developer for housing. It’s possible that there is another community use. We haven’t explored uses for the current school site at this point and likely will not until we get closer to our next bond issue and we have the information needed to make an informed decision.  But, Worthington Schools understands the need to protect the natural environment and to partner with the community in future uses for the current school site.

We don’t have a specific plan for the new site or the old site and we certainly do not have all of the answers to questions residents likely will have, but our feeling is that land to build a school on which solves an existing problem (current site challenges) does not often come open in a built out community like ours.  We never predicted we would have this opportunity but since the opportunity exists we believe it’s likely in the best interests of our community to seize the opportunity.  

We’re planning a public meeting to get feedback on this idea for Tuesday, September 3rd at 7:00 P.M. at the Worthington Education Center.  We’ll review the challenges with the current site and look at the advantages of the proposed site. Your feedback is important. We’ll listen to your thoughts and concerns. We won’t have all the answers at this point but if nothing else we’ll generate a list of questions we’ll need to answer in the future.  

The Harding Property is an opportunity we must explore.  This property has always served the public and a school would fit with the natural character that the community expects.  We’d love for you to join us on September 3rd to discuss, provide feedback and ask questions.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Opportunity Knocks Part Two – How’d we get to this point?

MFP1Sometimes opportunity knocks and something unexpected comes up that you feel needs to be pursued.  In Worthington Schools, we’re in that position right now with a 13.7-acre piece of property that would be an ideal site to build a new Colonial Hills Elementary School on.   The property sits off 161 on the east side of the school district and has commonly been known for years as The Harding Property. Currently, the land is owned by the I Am Boundless company.   

This blog post is designed to explain how we arrived at this point.  It was preceded by a post that explained our current situation and It will be followed by a post that attempts to outline the challenges with the current Colonial Hills site.

In 2015-2016, we began to plan for the future of Worthington facilities.  The research revealed some of our buildings are in great shape and are in need of some minor maintenance, while others could use extensive renovation or even replacement. That makes sense when you consider that some of our newest school buildings are 25 years old, while several of our schools are 60 years old (Colonial Hills) and were not built with today’s learning in mind.  We have done an excellent job with upkeep on the buildings, however, it’s not the appearance of the buildings that concerns us. It is the out-of-date infrastructure behind the walls (i.e. plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling) that is becoming more and more costly. The 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 on 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 Master Facilities 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 six 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 (70% voted in favor) last 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, Worthington Academy and Rockbridge remain on that site).  The plan balances high school enrollment by moving to four 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 or 2027 with Phase Three.  By phasing the work we are able to maintain our state-mandated debt limits and hopefully make the work more affordable for community members.

It is our belief that the Harding Property would be an ideal site for a new Colonial Hills Elementary to be funded in Phase Two or Phase Three of our plan.  This parcel of 13.7-acres would allow the school to remain in the Colonial Hills neighborhood while building a modern educational facility that meets the needs of Worthington students for the next 60 years.  

We’re planning a public meeting to get feedback on this idea for Tuesday, September 3rd at 7:00 P.M. at the Worthington Education Center.  We’ll review the challenges with the current site and look at the advantages of the proposed site. Your feedback is important. We’ll listen to your thoughts and concerns. We won’t have all the answers at this point but if nothing else we’ll generate a list of questions we’ll need to answer in the future.  

The Harding Property is an opportunity we must explore.  This property has always served the public and a school would fit with the natural character that the community expects.  We’d love for you to join us on September 3rd to discuss, provide feedback and ask questions.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Opportunity Knocks Part One – Current Situation

HardingSometimes opportunity knocks and something unexpected comes up that you feel needs to be pursued.  In Worthington Schools, we’re in that position right now with a 13.7-acre piece of property that would be an ideal site to build a new Colonial Hills Elementary School on.   The property sits off 161 on the east side of the school district and has commonly been known for years as The Harding Property. Currently, the land is owned by the I Am Boundless company.   

This blog post is designed to explain our current situation.  It will be followed by posts that further explain how we got to this point and the challenges with the current Colonial Hills site.

The Boundless family of companies has nearly 40 years of expertise providing person-centered care to children, adults, and families with intellectual and developmental disabilities and/or behavioral health challenges.  They have several tracts of land on their property that they are looking to sell and in their words “partner” with a provider. Last spring Boundless issued a RFP for their property.

On March 15th, Worthington Schools responded to the I Am Boundless RFP and Director of Business Services Jeff Eble met twice with their team to discuss the 13.7-acre site on the SE section of their property at the end of Indianola Avenue.

On July 8th, I  again met with Boundless regarding our proposal.  We discussed our timeline for potentially building a new Colonial Hills elementary in Phase 2 or Phase 3 of our Facilities Master Plan and the potential for Worthington Schools to purchase the land and lease it back to I Am Boundless until we are ready to move forward.

On August 5th, I met with Boundless again and indicated our desire to create a letter of intent to negotiate the purchase of this property.  

We’re planning a public meeting to get feedback on this idea for Tuesday, September 3rd at 7:00 P.M. at the Worthington Education Center.  We’ll review the challenges with the current site and look at the advantages of the proposed site. Your feedback is important. We’ll listen to your thoughts and concerns. We won’t have all the answers at this point but if nothing else we’ll generate a list of questions we’ll need to answer in the future.  

The Harding Property is an opportunity we must explore.  This property has always served the public and a school would fit with the natural character that the community expects.  We’d love for you to join us on September 3rd to discuss, provide feedback and ask questions.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Boundless

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School starts in August?

67574610_3020196048021031_673311362885091328_oWe’ve had a nice dry stretch of weather lately and with that, I’ve had an opportunity to take some walks in the evening after work.  Over the last few days, it seems like everyone I stop and talk with on a walk has asked one or both of these questions: 1. Are you ready to go back to school? 2.  Why do we go back to school so early?

For the first question, I’m always an emphatic YES!  Seriously, of course, we’re ready to go back to school.  Why wouldn’t we be? We love this stuff! I get to work with 1,300 staff members in Worthington Schools who love and care about kids.  I work with teachers who have invested much of their summer to learn and grow and will come back to school better prepared to deal with childhood trauma, responsive classroom practices, understanding and teaching students with Dyslexia, etc.  I work with bus drivers who gave up their Saturday this weekend to welcome our first-time riders. They helped relieve anxiety, they smiled and had fun and also passed out Kona Ice. I work with a custodial team who is working double-time to shine floors, clean modular classrooms and has spent the summer painting, deep cleaning and getting ready for students to use our schools as “the world’s largest teenage bedroom…”  School is awesome! We’ll pick up 6,000 students each day in the neighborhood, we’ll feed students breakfast and lunch, we’ll provide trusted adults who know and care about your child and we’ll provide a significant number of after school activities that engage, challenge and help students grow. Of course, we’re ready for school to begin! School is awesome!

Now, why does school begin on August 14th?  Why not? Why wouldn’t we want to be in school?  We recognize that for many people August 14th is early and it certainly is compared to East coast standards and it’s even about a week to ten days earlier than historical Worthington standards.  But, we’ve been out of school since May 22nd and thus, summer has not been shortened, it’s shifted. By beginning August 14th we can end first semester finals before winter break and our high school students can have a real break away from the stress of class during that time.  In addition, this keeps first and second semester courses at the high school close to the same number of days (second semester still has more days but also has mandated State testing) and for semester only courses we need even semesters so students cover similar material regardless of when they take the course.  Finally, OHSAA governs the start of sports and all of our high school sports and bands were fully in season by August 1st and most middle school sports were too. Thus, very few 7-12th grade families can vacation in August anyway. My feeling is that by late May and June everyone is ready for school to be over. That becomes not a very productive learning time.  Conversely, most students whether they will admit it or not are excited to go back to school in August and we find that learning time to be more productive. All of our schools have air conditioning (not all of our gyms) so the heat is not much of an impact to learning.

Thus, it’s August!  Next week we go to school!  We’re ready and excited!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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