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Column: District 518 looks at two clear facilities options

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington School District has completed the study regarding programming and facilities in order to make a quality decision about future needs of the district. During facility work sessions and meetings, the needs have been continually discussed for over the last year and a half. During the last week of January, the school board held a work session to discuss a potential direction in order to meet the growing needs.

During the work session, many questions were asked and addressed in a discussion that centered on some type of new facility with the potential of building additions. The study indicated that two clear options existed. These two options were also identified over a year ago during the focus group meetings held by the district. The input from these meetings has led to the options of building an intermediate facility (Grades 3 to 5) with additions to the high school or a new high school. Each of these options has estimated values attached to them with the intermediate school/additions being approximately $30 to $38 million dollars and the high school option costing $42 to $48 million. The cost ranges are dependent on the site, materials, interest costs, infrastructure costs etc. just to name a few.

The work session discussion has the board leaning towards an intermediate school with an addition to the high school with some other potential work on facilities. On Tuesday (Feb. 19), the school board will have further discussion on the topic and will likely establish a direction for the district as well as to discuss hiring a firm to represent the district. This will eventually lead to the hiring of an architectural firm to develop a facility that can meet the long-term needs of the district.

All of these decisions are extremely important for the future direction of the district and have been carefully considered by the school board members in understanding the long-term impacts of such a major decision, both educationally and fiscally to taxpayers. Each school board member understands that the established direction may have both a positive and negative effect for students and the community.

The current projections for the upcoming year for each of the school buildings will be: The elementary will have an estimated 1,182 students plus those in the Early Childhood/Handicapped Kindergarten program of about 76 students, so the total enrollment at Prairie Elementary will be 1,258 students. The middle school enrollment is projected to be at 782 students; the high school will be approximately 757 students. The ALC will be approximately 85 students, rounding out the total student population for next year at an estimated 2,882 students.

As you can see, our enrollment growth continues to put strains on our current facilities, and the district needs to make some decisions on the future direction of additional space. Of course, this is a wonderful issue to be addressing, rather than the issues that many other districts across the nation are having to address reducing budgets and terminating employees due to the loss of students.

I would encourage you to visit with school employees, school administrators or school board members about the facility needs and ask that you attend future meetings related to any potential construction of facilities. District 518 has always appreciated the great support and interest in our educational system and will continue to work to meet all students' needs. Thank you for your interest, support and dedication to District 518.

John Landgaard is District 518's superintendent.