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 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 It is the out-of-date infrastructure behind the walls (i.e. plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling) that is becoming more and more costly.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