Worthington Schools: Middle school construction on schedule for July completion

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Construction continues at Worthington Schools' Kilbourne Middle School on March 24. A cafeteria, new entrances and an administration building are being added to the school as part of the district's first phase of its master facilities plan, which includes updates to all middle schools.

The first phase of Worthington Schools’ three-phase capital-improvement plan is on track to be completed by July as the district experiences and anticipates growing enrollment, district officials said. 

Phase 1 encompasses renovations to Kilbourne, McCord, Perry, Phoenix and Worthingway middle schools and comes as the district plans to move all of its sixth-graders out of the elementary school system and into the middle schools in August. 

New construction and renovation to the facilities, which began in June 2020, were facilitated to accommodate the district’s surge in enrollment, according to Superintendent Trent Bowers. 

Worthington Schools, whose approximately 10,000 students returned to in-person learning full time March 22, has experienced growing enrollment in past years and anticipates enrollment to swell to approximately 11,000 to 13,000 students by the 2028-29 school year, according to a 2019 enrollment projection report by Hilliard consulting group Cooperative Strategies. 

“We knew we had aging buildings, and we had a growing student population, so we needed more capacity for our students,” Bowers said. “(Our master facilities team) decided that one of the ways to handle that was to add capacity at our middle schools – that would renovate the aging middle schools and add more capacity at our middle schools so they could hold grades 6 through 8. And by adding capacity at the middle school, that creates more space at every elementary school.” 

With sixth-graders moving to middle schools in August, the district will have the flexibility to repurpose its sixth-grade classrooms and resources at its elementary schools to accommodate its K-5 students, according to Angie Adrean, assistant superintendent for academics. 

“Those sixth-grade classrooms at the elementary level will now be filled due to district growth,” she said. “One of the reasons we moved our sixth-graders to the middle school (is) we believe academically that is the best place for them, but we also know that due to growth at the elementary level, it was a win-win because it helped us in both capacities. 

“The growth capacity and academic achievement for those students to be placed in a middle school is more appropriate for a sixth-grade student.”

“The enrollment projections we had done prior to the pandemic indicated we were going to need that capacity at those schools,” said Randy Banks, assistant superintendent for operations. “The enrollment projects were completed several years ago, and they indicated that we were going to run out of space at many of our elementary schools, which is what prompted this move to move the sixth-graders out to provide relief at the elementary schools.” 

At Kilbourne Middle School, Bowers said, renovations feature a new secure entrance, new administrative offices on the Hartford Street side of the building and a new student dining area. 

Worthingway is receiving “significant” new construction and a little bit of a renovation to the old building. About half of the old building was demolished March 20 and 21, and students are learning in the new construction portion of Worthingway. 

Bowers told ThisWeek Worthington News in December that McCord is receiving a new academic wing with classrooms, science and computer labs and a student commons area. 

Perry is receiving renovations to reopen after closing in 2010 and being repurposed into Phoenix in an approximate $1 million cost-saving move

Phoenix, which is undergoing renovations to its classrooms, student commons and library and will have shared spaces with Perry, will remain as an alternative option for seventh- and eighth-grade students, Bowers previously told ThisWeek

Phoenix features a longer school day and smaller enrollment emphasizing personal instruction. Students also are “mastery assessed,” meaning they don’t earn letter grades and have to demonstrate proficiency in a subject through a test or project, for example. 

Phase 1 will be complete once the middle school renovations are finished in July, Bowers said, allowing the district to focus on phase 2. 

Bowers said the district put together a new task force in fall 2020 to begin discussing phase 2. Members have met twice since then and plan to meet again in the spring, he said. 

“Our hope is for them to have created a plan for phase 2 that we’ll put in front of voters in November of 2022,” Bowers said. 

Bowers said details of phase 2 should be worked out in the coming months. 

“Our first master facility team put together a three-phase plan, so the first thing (the phase 2 team is) going to do is go back to the work of the first task force and look at what they put together for phase 2 and make determinations of, ‘Does this still make sense based on where we are today or should we go in a different direction?’” he said. 

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve