A Worthington school board discussion Aug. 28 about aging facilities and overcrowded classrooms raised more questions than answers as board members mulled two options created by a facilities task force.

Superintendent Trent Bowers said as enrollment increases, capacity is an issue, especially in schools built in the 1950s.

The district has added 1,000 students in the past five years, with an additional 800 expected in the next five. When classes began Aug. 16, enrollment was 10,201.

One option keeps a K-6 grade configuration for elementary buildings, but Kilbourne Middle School would become an elementary school. A new elementary school also would be built and several buildings renovated. It would mean boundary and/or feeder adjustments at all grade levels at an estimated cost of $166 million.

The other option changes grade configurations to K-5 and 6-8. The Perry building would reopen as a middle school instead of housing Phoenix Alternative Middle School, and feeder adjustments would be required at most grade levels. That cost would be approximately $160.8 million.

The task force originally scheduled a plan recommendation in May. That date was pushed to September as district leaders gathered feedback from the community.

Board member Marc Schare said he would like a "simpler approach."

"The logical conclusion is to find 600 or so elementary school seats by rebuilding Brookside or building another elementary school," he said.

Schare said it could cost less to tackle the worst capacity issues, one at a time.

"We might be best served to use the facility team to create a modified report on each school about what is needed for each building," he said.

Sam Shim said he was concerned about cost because the district likely would need a bond issue and levy to pay for the plan.

"We have to make sure whatever we put on the ballot passes," he said. "Having worked on the 2012 levy, I know how difficult it is to pass a levy and bond issues at the same time."

Julie Keegan said she might consider a "minimalist" option.

"Not to ignore conditions, but could we give our task force a charge to see if the community is ready for this disruption?" she asked.

Board President Jennifer Best said the district should engage more community members before asking for bond money.

"I'd also like to hear more from our principals on their preferences," she said.

Bowers said most principals preferred the second option.

Tracy Richter of DeJong-Richter, the consulting firm helping the district complete the facilities plan, said the repairs and renovations could get more expensive as buildings continued to age.

Richter said the facilities task force would meet soon to consider the school board's comments, but a specific date has not been set.

"The task force is close to a final recommendation," he said.

Bowers said he expects a recommendation this fall.

Learn more about the facilities-planning process at worthington.k12.oh.us.

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