Parents asked lots of questions but lodged few complaints as they learned about upcoming middle school changes during a meeting Feb. 18 at Kilbourne Middle School.

Parents asked lots of questions but lodged few complaints as they learned about upcoming middle school changes during a meeting Feb. 18 at Kilbourne Middle School.

Approximately 250 parents attended the meeting.

Beginning next school year, Worthington will have three neighborhood middle schools instead of four, and the team teaching method in place since the 1970s will be discontinued.

The changes are being made to save money. Speakers projected that 12.5 fewer teachers will be needed under the new system, and district treasurer Jeff McCuen said the spending reduction will be $250,000 next year and $750,000 a year for each following year.

The middle schools were targeted for restructuring because the cost per pupil is higher than in either the elementary or high schools, and is higher than in middle schools in similar districts, administrators said.

A team of educators took on the task of finding ways to become more efficient and effective last spring, when the Worthington Board of Education charged the administration with creating a more efficient middle school program.

Many options were considered.

The one chosen will close Perry Middle School, which currently shares a building with the Phoenix Alternative Middle School.

The Phoenix School will continue at the site and will be expanded after next year. Currently, 160 students attend the alternative school.

The approximately 150 students at Perry will be transferred to McCord Middle School, where enrollment is expected to grow to approximately 530 next year. By 2015, the enrollment is expected to grow to 590.

McCord's building capacity is 700.

The enrollments at Kilbourne Middle School and Worthingway Middle School are expected to remain steady. This year's enrollments are 335 and 360, respectively.

Administrators said they chose that plan because it saved the most money and because it would cause the least upheaval among students. Students would remain with their classmates, and feeder patterns would not be interrupted.

To spread the enrollment more evenly among the three schools would mean redistricting, more students moved and more transportation costs.

Under the plan, the popular Phoenix program would be expanded in 2011. Under consideration is accepting sixth- and possibly fifth-graders into the program.

Students are chosen for the Phoenix program by lottery, with each middle school represented equally. Beginning next year, more McCord students will be accepted due to the school's larger size.

The middle school program will no longer revolve around teams of teachers who stay with a cluster of students throughout much of the school day. Instead, there will be eight periods each day.

"There will still be time for staff to make connections with kids," said Worthingway principal Santha Stall.

More electives will be offered, with two periods set aside each day for subjects like performing arts, visual arts, general music, Wellness4Life, technology and information literacy.

Family and consumer science will no longer be offered.

One parent asked if the staff at Phoenix would be reduced. The answer was no. Class ratio there is one to 21, and both students and teachers put in an extra two hours a day, administrators answered.

Another asked if all sixth-graders could be moved to middle schools. Administrator Mark Glasbrenner said the idea was considered, but all of the sixth-graders would not fit into the middle schools.

Another asked if Brookside Elementary students who walked to Perry would be bused to McCord. The answer was yes.

Glasbrenner said he expected parents and all others involved in the changes to have concerns.

"Any time we look at change, we're looking at some pretty significant angst for all of us," he said. "It's one child at a time, and we really mean that."