Westerville News & Public Opinion

Westerville elementary attendance changes moving ahead


District administrators presented four "scenarios" for elementary realignment to the Westerville Board of Education at its Jan. 28 meeting, but board members focused on whether -- rather than how -- the realignment should occur.

The scenarios each focused on a different goal:

* Balancing enrollment, with several of the district elementary schools with more assigned students than designed capacity.

* Creating transportation efficiency by minimizing the amount of noncontiguous areas served by each school.

* Balancing the socioeconomic demographics of each school to better mirror districtwide demographics.

* Fully phasing out the magnet school program.

The presentation made by administrators, which is available on the district's website, wcsoh.org, showed how each of the scenarios would impact the four focus areas.

Board member Cindy Crowe started the discussion by echoing comments she made at the Jan. 14 board meeting, saying the board should hold off on elementary realignment until a new superintendent is hired and able to create a comprehensive plan for the district.

Crowe went on to say that the district needs to look more deeply at the phasing out of the magnet program and what should be done with the empty Central College and Longfellow buildings, which were shuttered due to budget reductions at the beginning of this school year.

"I ask that we slow this process down and allow a new superintendent the opportunity to weigh in on the future of our district," Crowe said. "My personal opinion is we do a very basic, minimal plan for this next school year."

Other board members disagreed, saying the board needs to take action because seven of the district's 14 elementary schools are over capacity and the board already ruled on ending the magnet program when budget cuts were made last year.

"This was part of the conversation last year, so I say we continue on with the process," said board President Denise Pope. "This, to me, feels like the next step. Otherwise, we open ourselves back up to having the same conversations we had last year and figuring out how to replace those dollars."

Board member Kevin Hoffman added that whoever is hired to replace outgoing Superintendent Dan Good, who will retire at the end of this school year, will have his or her own challenges to face, and the board shouldn't delay making important decisions.

"I believe we have plenty of things we need to do. I think we need to take the actions when we need to take the actions and move onto the next step because there's always something right behind it," Hoffman said.

The board did agree to continue on with the realignment process.

A realignment committee will meet Feb. 5 and create realignment options to present to the board at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Public meetings to review those options and gather input are scheduled for 8 a.m. Feb. 14 at Huber Ridge Elementary School, 5757 Buenos Aires Blvd., and for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at Alcott Elementary School, 7117 Mount Royal Ave.

A final recommendation for realignment would be presented to the board Feb. 25 for approval March 11.