Just over a year ago, an article appeared in The Columbus Dispatch that was a surprise to a lot of Worthington community members.
Although most school districts in Ohio are experiencing declining student enrollment, Worthington Schools is in the top 10 in student-enrollment growth.
This increase in our student population is a result of housing turnover, as we are experiencing more families with young children moving into our community.
Though it's exciting to be a part of a thriving community, it does create challenges for our schools. To keep up with the 1,000 students added since 2012, we've had to implement temporary solutions, such as portable classrooms at Worthington Hills and Colonial Hills elementary schools and moving Evening Street Elementary School sixth-graders to Kilbourne Middle School.
In addition to space issues, our increasing enrollment has impacted the operating budget.
Although we've added 1,000 students and expect another 800 over the next five years, our state funding is not keeping up.
In fact, because of complex calculations included in the state's school-funding formula, Worthington does not receive additional funds to accommodate the growing population.
We've stretched our dollars, maintained current programs and stayed off the ballot for six years now, but we are reaching a point where additional operating funds will be needed.
To ensure stability in our schools and community, district leaders have been working directly with residents on a responsible facilities plan for the future.
The master facilities plan – created by a task force of community members – recommends the school district change elementary configuration to kindergarten to fifth grade, with sixth-graders going to the middle school buildings. The sixth-graders' move would create the capacity needed at the elementary level and help keep neighborhoods together by minimizing the need for redistricting.
The plan also recommends that the district reopen Perry Middle School and expand the building so that we can continue to offer valued alternative-learning programs at Phoenix Middle School and Worthington Academy.
The plan will accommodate increasing enrollment and be flexible enough to deal with fluctuations in our student population for years to come.
Over the next several months, district leaders will reach out to community members to talk about the effects of our increasing enrollment and the need for additional operating funds in the near future.
To learn more about Worthington Schools, I encourage all residents to attend the third annual State of the Schools at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Worthington Kilbourne High School. We hope you are able to join us for this celebration of excellence and our plans for the future.
Trent Bowers is superintendent of Worthington Schools. Contact him by email at email@example.com.