Two plans for education-related buildings came before the Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission on April 25, but only one has a concrete timeline after both received approval.

The first project approved involves modular classrooms at Evening Street Elementary School, 885 Evening St., to help with increasing enrollment, according to Worthington Schools leaders.

As of a January 2019 enrollment report on worthington.k12.oh.us, kindergarten-to-fifth-grade enrollment at Evening Street is 515 students for the 2018-19 school year. Five years ago, in the 2014-15 school year, K-5 enrollment was 462. In four years, during the 2022-23 school year, K-5 enrollment is estimated at 570.

The trend matches overall Worthington Schools enrollment, which currently is 10,276 but is projected to reach 11,546 by the 2024-25 school year, according to the January report.

District leaders previously presented to the board March 28 with a plan for a building with modular classrooms. The building would have six classrooms and two restrooms and would be 70 feet wide by 80 feet long, according to the plan presented to the ARB.

The new plan presented April 25 had revised landscaping with additional spruce trees, and the faux brick that was presented as a part of the original plan was replaced with faux stucco.

Jeff Eble, director of business services for Worthington Schools, said he was not sure of the grades using the classrooms or how long the structure would need to be in place, but the district would use four years as a reassessment point.

Several comments were made during discussion on the modulars.

Eble said district leaders were not going to compromise on the position of the building after ARB members discussed moving it back farther from the street and out of view of nearby residents.

The proposed location provided a clear sight line for when children are playing outdoors, he said.

"We want to have as open of a space as possible to keep an eye on the kids," Eble said.

ARB member Richard Schuster said the decision was difficult, but the most important aspect was the safety of the children.

"This is not something if we had to choose that we'd even have to deal with," he said. "I think we're faced with a situation where we're kind of forced into it."

ARB member David Foust said he had "wrestled" with the decision.

"I know that there's tremendous apprehension for how long the modulars will be there," Eble said.

"It's something that I think we can live with," ARB board member Thomas Reis said of the proposal.

The modular classrooms were approved 6-1, with Foust voting against the proposal because "some aspects are not ideal."

According to Lynda Bitar, Worthington's planning coordinator, the district must now apply for a building permit as soon as possible, and the project would not have to be approved by City Council because it needed approval only from the ARB.

She said district leaders wanted the building completed by July.

The other proposal was for a Goddard School at 6699 N. High St., which was tabled March 28.

Samantha Elliott is the franchise owner of the proposed preschool. She also is a franchise owner for two other Goddard schools, at 694 Mount Airyshire Blvd. in Columbus and at 2585 London-Groveport Road in Grove City.

ThisWeek could not reach Elliott for comment before press time.

Bitar said the proposal would involve dividing about 1 acre from the northern part of the 4-acre lot at the same address that is used by Schoedinger Worthington Chapel.

She said the area is used as a parking lot for the funeral home.

The proposed building would be a single story and could accommodate 175 full-time students. It was approved by 7-0 by both the ARB and MPC, but the applicant will need to clarify details about stormwater runoff and a travel plan for the local fire department before going to Worthington City Council for approval, according to meeting documents.

"This round was more about getting into the details and proportions," said Jonathan Grubb, lead designer for Architectural Alliance, which is handling the design of the project.

Bitar said changes from the previous plan included making windows taller and adding shutters. Specifications on the sign size and style were also provided, she said.

As for the components that still need to be resolved, comments from the city on storm drainage said the catch basin might be on a neighboring property or on the property line so an easement, or a right to use someone else's land for a specific purpose, might be needed, according to the meeting documents.

The applicant also would need to provide a travel path for fire crews, a travel path to the hydrant, distance around the building and proof of fire flow – the flow rate of water available to fight a fire – before proceeding to City Council for approval, according to the documents.

City Council also would need to approve a variance, or a request to deviate from the current zoning, for the placement of the building, according to the documents.

Bitar said the applicant would have to return to the board at a later date for approval of playground equipment for an outdoor play area.

She said the playground equipment does not have to be approved before going to City Council, but Goddard would have to return to the ARB because the equipment relates to the design of the property.

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