Westerville City Schools: Input sought on proposed boundary realignments

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Westerville City Schools leaders are providing a virtual gallery walk of proposed elementary and middle school attendance-boundary changes and seeking residents' feedback through Monday, Dec. 7.

Color-coded maps of current and proposed boundaries, as well as details of the boundary-realignment process, are online at wcsoh.org/boundary.

Scott Dorne, the district's executive director of facilities and operations who is overseeing the process, said feedback from residents would be used by the two committees that have been working on the realignment as they work toward final recommendations.

This map shows the proposed middle school boundaries for Westerville City Schools.

The school board tentatively is scheduled to hear the recommendations Feb. 8, 2021.

Dorne said the realignment committee process came to a halt when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic began.

“Coming back using a remote platform made it more challenging,” he said. 

Each realignment committee had a diverse group of members, Dorne said, including two co-facilitators, five community members, a school board member, a principal, a teacher and other district staff, as appointed by the superintendent based on their job functions.

The realignment is needed because of two new schools being built after voter approval of a combined 1.95-mill bond issue and 5.9-mill operating levy in November 2019.

The bond issue is providing funding for a new middle school and elementary school, in addition to providing safety and security updates districtwide, renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools and renovations at Hawthorne Elementary School. The issue also is allowing the district to address facilities assessment needs at Hanby, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools.

The new elementary school's boundaries will be effective when it is scheduled to open in August 2022. The middle school's boundaries will be effective in August 2023.

This map shows the proposed elementary school boundaries for Westerville City Schools.

High school attendance boundaries aren’t affected.

Each committee received current boundaries and used proximity and building-demographic profiles as starting points, Dorne said.

“I think the committees have done a good job in considering all the things the board has asked,” he said. “The committees had a challenge of figuring out neighborhood proximity and diversity. I think (the proposals) improve on current demographic ranges. What’s most important is what the community thinks.”

Some of the parameters the committees took into consideration include:

• A total student population at each school that’s consistent with the number of classrooms planned to serve the general population, exclusive of rooms set aside for other uses

• Students living within nontransport boundaries for one or more schools receiving strong consideration to be assigned to one of those buildings

• Accommodations for anticipated enrollment growth

• Schools’ demographic profiles

• Minimized change from the current attendance boundaries

• Student travel time on school transportation

Dorne said he hopes the community’s feedback is constructive for the committee. 

“If there’s a recommendation, the greater the specificity the easier it is for the committee to consider,” he said.

Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and technology, said the original plan was to provide four opportunities for community members to see the current work product at locations around the district. 

Because of the coronavirus, residents will have to view the proposals remotely instead.

“By making it a virtual opportunity, it expands people’s ability to participate in the process,” Viebranz said. “It’s available 24 hours a day. People can participate whenever it’s convenient for them. We think it definitely expands to lend their voice to the process.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla