Worthington's school district leaders stride into a new year with hope and determination, according to Superintendent Trent Bowers.

Worthington's school district leaders stride into a new year with hope and determination, according to Superintendent Trent Bowers.

"2017 is going to be a great year in Worthington (City) Schools," he said. "We're going to work everyday to accomplish our mission to empower a community of learners who will change the world."

Topics to address

Identifying one priority, he said he hopes to find creative solutions for enrollment growth. Worthington was in the top 10 school districts in Ohio for enrollment growth for the past five years.

"Since 2010, we have added over 500 additional students and have schools that exceeded their program capacity and classrooms that have larger class sizes than may be ideal," Bowers said.

Since enrollment is projected to keep growing for several years, a task force is working on a facilities master plan.

"In this plan, we will consider the cost and impact on our district budget and residents," Bowers said. "The average age of a Worthington school building is 45 years. It has been over two decades since the district has taken a comprehensive look at our school buildings."

He said the facilities plan would be designed to "ensure the district delivers on the quality and efficiency our community expects in the most economical manner possible for taxpayers."

Another issue that needs to be addressed this year is how the state created a 2018 graduation dilemma for many Ohio students.

"Students must earn 18 points of rigorous end-of-course exams to graduate under the new requirements," Bowers said. "While many Worthington students are in good shape, there are a significant number of students that need intervention and remediation. We will focus on helping every child graduate on time with their class."

The district's 2012 five-year bond issue expires in 2017, ending a revenue stream for technology, school buses and building maintenance.

Bowers said the district might need another bond issue or permanent improvement levy late in 2017, or in 2018 or 2019.

"The district would need to replace that revenue stream," he said.

Teacher contract negotiations also will come up this year.

Negotiations for those contracts are scheduled to begin this spring, Bowers said.

Bowers said residents could attend the 2017 State of Schools at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Worthington Kilbourne High School, 1499 Hard Road, to learn more about district programs.

"The event will celebrate student achievement, feature student performances and share the district's plans for the future," Bowers said.

He said district staff members would work together to make sure students graduate college and are career ready.

"We're not striving just to make a difference on test scores, we want our students engaged in curriculum and engaged in activities and sports that provide them with a well-rounded opportunity," he said.

Board perspectives

Board President Marc Schare said the graduation requirements could be modified soon by the state legislature.

"Worthington's voice needs to be heard in that statewide conversation," he said. "We also anticipate (state) Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) will introduce a brand new funding formula that essentially replaces local taxes with a new statewide tax."

He said the district also must continue efforts to modify the state report card "so that it contains meaningful, understandable and consistent data for our constituents."

The facilities planning process would continue to engage all stakeholders he said.

"The process is designed to be as open and transparent as possible," Schare said. "All input is welcome, whether it comes through a community forum, public remarks at a board meeting or private email."

Board member Jennifer Best said declining enrollment was an issue 15 years ago, when she was first elected to the school board.

"Now we are growing faster than most other districts," she said.

She said the Master Planning Task Force of 50 members represents many aspects of the community.

"I hope this group is able to come to a consensus and have a plan by school year's end that would help with building capacity, program and useful life of building expectations," she said.

Making sure the district has the best teachers possible in every classroom also is an important challenge.

"This means not only hiring the best, but continually providing training and learning opportunities for staff," Best said. "We want every student to grow academically every year and we want our students to meet graduation requirements."