Worthington City Schools' master facilities plan continues to develop with the help of the community and DeJong Richter, an educational design firm.

Worthington City Schools' master facilities plan continues to develop with the help of the community and DeJong Richter, an educational design firm.

Tracy Richter said 820 people had participated so far in the community input process, whether by attending public meetings in September, participating on a task force or filling out online surveys.

"We continue to learn how to improve our communication with residents and will continue to collect data," he said. "We've been asking people more about their current perception of the buildings, and will be asking about expectations and the challenges the district is facing."

The Facilities Task Force, made up of parents, administrators, students, teachers and other residents, is reviewing community feedback and discussing concerns about each school building, Richter said.

"We talked a little about scenario development and how to approach that and I have to commend this group, because they came in prepared with a lot of questions," he said. "We were after the perception of the buildings and I think we got that. People really know their elementary schools when it comes to facilities."

He said the educational framework of each building is an important topic.

"One of the biggest concerns is that the solutions don't end up where one area gets something new that another area doesn't," Richter said. "Also, how do you deal with the traditions and cultures as you improve facilities and how do you hold on to the things that make Worthington schools Worthington schools?"

The facilities-planning process began last school year, after the district engaged experts to analyze the efficiency of all district buildings from a financial and educational standpoint.

Some buildings were declared in good shape or in need of minor maintenance, while others could use extensive renovation or replacement. Several district buildings are at least 50 years old.

Superintendent Trent Bowers said increasing student enrollment resulted in overcrowding at Evening Street, Slate Hill, Colonial Hills and Worthington Estates last school year, "which made facilities planning a necessity, not a luxury."

Prioritizing which buildings need the most work would be a part of the process, Richter said.

"We know there are not enough dollars to get everything done, so prioritization would mean making sure things get done that have to be done," he said.

He said the task force would come up with different scenarios "that might challenge this community a little."

"We have to ask the community about renovation versus replacement thresholds," he said. "It may not always mean replacing the entire facility, but maybe parts of a building. We would also have to figure out how tolerant the community would be about moving boundaries."

Bowers said residents could attend one of two upcoming meetings to contribute feedback.

"We are mailing post-card invitations to all parents and registered voters, one per household," he said. "Everyone should know these meetings are occurring so we can get as much stakeholder input as possible."

The first meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at Thomas Worthington High School, 300 W. Granville Road. The second meeting is at the same time on Dec. 7 at Worthington Kilbourne High School, 1499 Hard Road.

Richter said an online survey would be available for feedback next month on the district website, worthington.k12.oh.us.

He said the meetings would involve using both small discussion groups and written questionnaires.

Bowers said the process is expected to be complete by the end of the school year.

After the public meetings in December, the timeline includes a Task Force meeting in January 2017, along with an Options/Scenario Development meeting Jan. 24 and 25.

The last community meetings would take place March 14 and 15.

Richter said his firm expects to have recommendations for a master facilities plan by the May 22 school board meeting.

Learn more on the district website or on the Worthington page of the DeJong Richter website, at www.dejongrichter.com/worthington/.