Last month, the Westerville school board approved a resolution that effectively keeps the district in the running for state money that supports school facility projects such as repairs, renovations and construction.
In order to maintain our place on the priority list for these funds, the board agreed to enter into an active-planning process with the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The result of this process will be a Facilities Assessment Report, which will help us develop a much-needed, long-range facilities plan for our district.
Completing this planning process costs and commits us to nothing. However, it does put the wheels in motion for our possible participation in the state's Classroom Facilities Assistance Program in a few years.
Even by taking these necessary steps, there is no guarantee that we would receive state funds.
However, had we allowed this opportunity to pass us by, we would fall back toward the bottom of the priority list and essentially guarantee the loss of potential state resources.
Some people have mistakenly interpreted the board's approval of this resolution to mean that we will be going on the ballot to ask the community for additional funds. That may be because in order to access these state funds, a community must cover a portion of the identified facility costs.
As I mentioned earlier, participating in this process commits us to nothing, and it certainly does not commit us to putting a local funding issue on the ballot.
What I look forward to most about this process is the prospect of having a long-range facility plan as the primary outcome of our efforts.
We have done a good job maintaining our facilities with the financial resources provided by our community. However, we are getting to the point where we must complete some significant infrastructure work on many of our buildings.
The average age of our schools is 49 years old. Our fiscal year 2017 enrollment of 15,073 is a record high. Even though we have created new classroom space wherever we can, some of our schools are nearing or exceeding their capacity based upon current usage configurations and class size guidelines.
As if our pending challenges are not already apparent, according to updated projections, our once-stable enrollment is expected to increase by 919 students over the next 10 years.
Beyond examining the condition of our facilities, we also must explore their ability to handle the instructional programming of today.
We believe our students should be educated in 21st century learning environments that are accessible, accommodating and inspiring.
In some cases, creating such an environment can be cosmetic. In other cases, it would require significant renovations to existing spaces.
Preliminary findings from our recent community strategic planning meetings indicate that the condition of our facilities is a concern for many people. We must continue to involve residents in this conversation because where we go from here ultimately will be up to our community.
I am confident that residents will have ample opportunity to become informed about and involved in this important conversation about our facilities.
You can view the board members' discussion about the OSFC resolution and district facilities on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/WCSDOhio.
The board also has scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, May 15, at the Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive. The purpose of this session is for board members to begin growing their understanding of the present status of our facilities, as well as the effect of modern academic program needs and enrollment growth. The meeting is open to the public should anyone wish to begin learning more about this topic.
John Kellogg is superintendent of the Westerville City School District, which provides School Notes to ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.