Sometimes 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