Westerville City Schools in 2021: Renovations, construction to dominate priorities

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Ryan Felumlee, superintendent with Heath-based Robertson Construction Services Inc., describes the progress being made on the new Westerville elementary school Dec. 15.

Additional Westerville South High School renovations, a new wing at Annehurst Elementary School and construction at a new elementary school are a few of the building projects going on this year within the Westerville City Schools.

Scott Dorne, Westerville City Schools' executive director of facilities and operations, said various projects will be going on within the district and the South space is a big portion of that work. 

“There are a lot of exciting things going on for our students coming down the road,” he said. “A calendar year from now, we will have three phases completed at Westerville South.”

The first phase of South’s renovation was completed in December and included new academic spaces and a new wing with a gymnasium and restrooms.

Jeff LeRose, facilities director, said Phase 2, to be completed in August, includes the renovation of the first-floor north academic wing and café.

He said Phase 3, to be completed in December, includes the renovation of the second-floor south academic wing.

“We designed this most recent wing as the water wing and included elements reflecting water,” LeRose said. “The next two phases, we’ll incorporate fire and air elements of nature.”

In terms of classrooms, he said, classrooms that are 600 to 700 square foot will be expanded to the recommended size of 900 square feet.

Dorne said the entire South project includes six phases and a total cost of about $38 million.

He said the renovation and addition project are being funded by a 2009 permanent-improvements levy through a certificates-of-participation program.

According to investopedia.com, a certificate of participation is a type of financing in which an investor purchases a share of the lease revenues of a program rather than the bond being secured by those revenues. As opposed to bond participation, the certificates pay investors via lease revenues instead of through bond interest.

Dorne said the pad is being set at Annehurst for the new wing, and residents will see that go up this year. 

LeRose said the new Annehurst wing took into consideration the surrounding homes, as well as land use of the surrounding area, including Sharon Woods. 

“We will be adding windows in existing classrooms,” he said. “There currently isn’t a lot of natural light coming into the space.”

He said the colors on the addition were selected to complement the school building, and the stone accent on the addition are pulled from existing stone on the building.

“A stairway going into the mezzanine is the new treehouse connector between the new addition and existing building,” LeRose said. “It’s a focal point. It was a request from students and staff and pays tribute to the surrounding metro park. We feel it incorporates design elements for the existing building and adjacent park area and harmonizes with the Annehurst neighborhood.”

He said the platform at the top of the circular stairway could be used as a breakout area for instruction.

The Annehurst project will be completed in several phases, with the addition expected to be completed in July and the entire project slated to be done by fall 2022.

A stairway going into the mezzanine is the new treehouse connector between the new addition and existing building of Annehurst Elementary School.

New elementary school

An entire building also will be under construction this year on the elementary site at Minerva Park, near Hawthorne Elementary School. 

LeRose said the pitched roof on the new school reflects the style of the surrounding homes. 

He said the turrets on the building are a nod to Minerva Park once being the home of Franklin County’s first amusement park. 

The Minerva Park Amusement Park operated from May 15, 1895, to July 27, 1902, according to minervapark.org/community/page/history.

Managed by the Columbus Railway Co., attractions and landmarks included a park gateway and a casino with turrets, swan boats, a merry-go-round, a roller coaster and a pony track.

The design of the new Westerville elementary school recognizes the former Minerva Park Amusement Park. The green, curved portion of the outside of the building is the media center and is inspired by the amusement park’s Scenic Railway roller-coaster.

LeRose said the colors on the elementary school building reflect the M/I Homes neighborhood color palette, as well as colors from the former amusement park. 

He said the green, curved portion of the outside of the building is the media center and is inspired by the amusement park’s Scenic Railway roller-coaster.

He said as many trees as possible are being preserved on the site.

The pad already has taken shape at the new school that’s scheduled to open in August 2022.

The school is made possible because Westerville voters approved a combined 1.95-mill bond issue and a 5.9-mill operating levy Nov. 5, 2019.

The bond issue also will provide funds for a new middle school, safety and security updates districtwide, renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools, renovations at Hawthorne Elementary School and facilities-assessment needs at Hanby, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools.

Equity focus

Superintendent John Kellogg said despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the district is pressing on with some really good plans.

“I’m proud the staff is focused on moving the ball forward,” he said. “The first phase of South is complete, and we’re starting on the next phases. The elementary groundbreaking is going on. Those are opportunities from the ballot issue last fall.

“We’ll move to engage those communities who will go to those (new) schools, build the culture and identity of those schools.”

He said the district also would focus on equity. 

“We’ve put together an equity team,” Kellogg said. “We’ll make up some strategies, ways to do things to have more equality for our students. I’m exciting about that piece.”

He said teams are being built, with target areas around human resources, curriculum and materials and hiring practices.

“We have a comprehensive approach to this and building out these teams, so we’ll have the infrastructure to support the work,” Kellogg said. “We’re taking on a more systematic approach to address this issue.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla