History of Worthington Kilbourne High School
The Worthington community has long been recognized for its traditions of excellence. Worthington Kilbourne High School and Thomas Worthington High School carry a legacy that is nationally recognized for its progressiveness and quality. WKHS was named for James Kilbourne, a leading member of the Scioto Company and a champion of education, by a committee of parents, students and staff. The intention was to carry the tradition of old Worthington to the new school, by including both Worthington and Kilbourne in its name.1
Worthington’s first settlers had benefited from sound educational facilities in their original New England communities, and they made it a priority to provide similar opportunities for their children. During the winter of 1804, their first on the frontier, surveying the town plat led to the designation of a double town lot on the public square (the northeast quadrant of the Village Green) to be reserved for school purposes and one hundred acres of farmland just west of the town to be rented in support of a school. A temporary log structure on the square was used as a one-room school house, until it was removed to make way for the Worthington Academy, the premier educational institution in Central Ohio, in 1808. The first principal of the Worthington Academy was John Kilbourn, nephew of Worthington’s founder, James Kilbourne.2
Over the next 180 years the population of school-age children educated in the Worthington school district grew in numbers as well as in geographical scope. High school buildings were constructed in 1894 on E. Granville Road (where Kilbourne Middle School now stands); in 1916 on W. Granville Road on the school farm lot (now McConnell Arts Center); and in the early 1950s the central portion of what is now Thomas Worthington High School was built west of the 1916 building. As each high school building was erected, the former building was transformed to serve a different educational purpose.2
Following World War II the student population in the Worthington school district soared and elementary and middle school buildings were constructed to serve students in all quadrants of the district, eventually encompassing Sharon and Perry Township school districts as well. In 1973 the Linworth Alternative Program was launched on W. Granville Road, home of a unique alternative high school program featuring a small-school atmosphere with emphasis on experiential learning. Approximately 160 students in grades 9 through 12, from WKHS and TWHS, attend Linworth Alternative.
In 1991 the long-discussed vision of a second high school became a reality, as Worthington Kilbourne High School opened on the fifty-five acre site on a wooded ravine on Hard Road in the northwest Columbus part of the school district. As noted in the dedication program on October 20, 1991: “The construction of Worthington Kilbourne High School did not begin with building plans, but with a comprehensive study of the program which high school students would need to prepare themselves for the 21st century.” Nine program components were developed which staff used in developing a philosophy and program objectives for the new high school. With community, staff and school board input, based on visits to high schools in the Midwest and Northeast noted for their excellent educational programs, four high school scenarios were proposed and community feedback was sought in creating the vision of the new high school.1
Both high schools are situated on campuses that reflect the natural beauty of the area. Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington each house students in grades 9 through 12 and have multi-sports complexes. The schools share a natatorium located on the campus of TWHS. And every fall, the football teams of Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington face off on the field for the “Wo-Town Showdown”, something the Scioto Company settlers could never have foreseen!
1Program of The Official Dedication of Worthington Kilbourne High School, Oct. 20, 1991
2Jennie McCormick, Two Centuries of Education History: Worthington, Ohio, Worthington Historical Society, 2008, pp. i, 1, 2, 24-28,