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Superintendent discusses FAQ about buildings and enrollment in Worthington

BuiQuestions and Answers - A recent blog post from Dr. Trent Bowers:
 
Excellent schools mean a lot to this community. That’s why many of us chose to live and raise our families here. I feel blessed to live in such a vibrant, passionate and supportive community.
 
Our community has high standards and expectations in education and in operations.  We do, too. That is why we examine our operations on a continuing basis to make sure we are meeting the standards our community has come to expect. Our goal is to make sure we remain on a path of excellent schools at a good value for taxpayers.
 
In doing our research and planning for the future, we discovered that there are some challenges on the horizon – some of them immediate while others more long-term. One involves our increasing student enrollment and the other planning for the future of our school buildings.
 
If you read the local newspaper, attend a school board meeting, or follow local social media boards, there has been a lot of conversation about what our school district is doing to address these challenges.
 
Unfortunately, there are rarely perfect solutions to many of the challenges we face as an organization. We sincerely want to do what’s best for all of our kids and with the least disruption to their educational experience.  It’s a responsibility that we do not take lightly.
 
I also feel it is important that we keep open, continuous and transparent conversations going with our community about these topics and more. I want to share with you some of the top questions I am receiving and the answers that can help keep you informed on the state of our schools.
 
I’ve heard Worthington Schools’ enrollment is growing. What does that mean for my child’s school?
A recent enrollment study completed by Future Think projects that the school district will see steady growth from 2015 – 2024 and will increase in student population by 650 more students during that time. Houses are turning over and there is significant reinvestment in the community.  This means more students to educate in Worthington!
However, where the growth is happening impacts our neighborhoods and schools differently. It requires the school district to take immediate actions for some of our school buildings for next school year, while others will require additional planning for the future.
 
I’ve heard that Evening Street, Colonial Hills and Worthington Estates will have capacity problems next year. Is that true?
Evening Street has exceeded capacity even with the use of two classrooms at the McConnell Arts Center.  Next year, Evening Street will become a K-5 school and the 6th grade will be served at Kilbourne Middle School.  Worthington Estates Elementary needs one additional 6th grade classroom for next year.  With no open classrooms in the school we have decided to relocate a district special education unit to Worthington Park Elementary.  This move will provide the needed classroom space for next year.  Colonial Hills has no excess space.  We are monitoring enrollment very closely but believe they will have the necessary classroom space for next year.
 
What about redistricting?
Our school communities have developed a significant loyalty to their schools thus no one wants to leave the school they attend.  At this time there are no immediate plans for redistricting.  We plan to have further conversations and survey our community to gather additional feedback on this topic before determining if this option should be considered.
 
Does the district have a long-term plan to deal with growing enrollment?
We will be developing a plan to guide the school district as we face current and expected growth in pockets. This growth comes after many years, 1998-2011, of enrollment decline where we needed to shift the way in which many of our buildings were used.

What do we know about the state of our school facilities?
In 2011 Worthington developed a 25-year capital improvement plan for facility maintenance.  This plan would maintain our current facilities for their current purposes and be funded through bond issues every five years.
 
In Worthington, our newest school building is 25 years old.  Several of our schools are 50 years old and were not built with today’s learning in mind. In the fall of 2015, a study was completed by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which looked at the useful life span and the educational environments for each of the district’s schools. What we found is that 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.
 
Before any decision is made about the future of our school buildings, we must engage our community in all options through a master facilities planning process.
 
How can I be involved in the master facilities planning process for the future?
We’re currently working to create a process for master facility and enrollment planning.  I plan to present that process to the board of education before the end of this school year and to begin engaging our community as we enter into summer.  You’ll hear more about this plan in the coming months.
 
Trent Bowers, Superintendent