Facilities Planning History
The Board of Education on April 15, 2019, established the scope and timeline for a new Facilities Master Plan. This plan is important because the district must move beyond completing “patchwork” building projects and start addressing issues caused by the buildings’ age so they do not become worse or create more issues in the future. Enrollment is growing again, so the district also must add classroom space.
A 2001 state study of our schools said the district should replace 10 buildings and finish nearly $112 million in other projects. District officials at the time chose not to replace buildings, so since then, the district has used facility funds to address the most important of these needs. Facility funds also have allowed the district to keep up the inside and outside appearance of schools and other buildings.
Education has changed a lot over the years, especially the way teachers teach and how students learn. Most of the district’s schools and classrooms are appropriate for the “old way” of doing things. By following this plan, the district can start to update its older classrooms and turn other learning spaces into 21st Century Learning & Teaching environments at all levels.
After years of work to improve and balance finances, district officials were able to leverage current funds to start renovating Westerville South High School and address safety needs at every school. This work is being done without asking for more funds from local taxpayers. However, the district will need to ask residents for both bond and operating funds to make the first five years of this 10-year plan a reality. Only with new community funding can the district add space for enrollment growth, further increase safety at all schools, fix issues at aging buildings, and improve learning environments for students across the district.
10 Things to Know about WCSD's 10-Year Facilities Master Plan
- The Facilities plan provides appropriate space for enrollment needs
When this plan was created, some of our schools already had more students than their ideal enrollment. The new elementary school and middle school in this plan, as well as modifications to some of our existing schools, will provide adequate space for current enrollment and flexibility for addressing future enrollment.
- The Plan was requested and developed by our community
Two years ago, during an update to the district’s Strategic Plan, community members indicated it was time to give some attention to aging school buildings. In response, the district formed a committee made up of community members, parents, business leaders, city officials, district support organizations, and district staff. The committee met seven times the following year to study aging buildings, student enrollment growth, current & future curriculum, and school safety & security. The committee made several recommendations to the Board of Education, noting that the Board could adjust them as needed. Over the following months, district officials held several community meetings and gathered public input that they used to modify the plan. The final plan reflects what our community wants most for its schools and students
- More students will be able to attend a school closer to their home
Opening a new middle school and elementary school in the southern end of the district will allow us to put students in schools closer to where they live. Each year, a number of students go to a different school if there is not enough space at the school they should attend based upon their address. Building new schools and adding space to others will allow us to balance enrollments by sending more students to schools closer to their homes.
- The plan adds safety and security measures at every school in the district
We have already done a lot to train our staff, run drills with students, and make our schools safer. However, this plan will allow us to make changes at every building so our schools have safer, more secure entrances and access points. We are also adding or updating visitor management, access control, and video security systems at every school.
- Our larger middle and elementary schools will become smaller
Our high schools have enough space to handle expected enrollment, but that is not the case at our middle and elementary schools. In terms of students, our largest elementary school is actually bigger than our smallest middle school. We have found ways to fit students into available spaces, but that space is running out. It is now time to build and open new classroom space, which will help us balance student numbers across all levels.
- With more classroom space, we can create new or expand existing academic programs
Without new academic spaces, there is little chance to expand existing programs or create new options for students. The 10-year plan not only meets current space needs, but it allows us to improve the school program options that we can provide to students.
- The plan provides 21st Century classrooms and learning spaces FOR STUDENTS
In 21st Century classrooms, students no longer sit in rows or work alone. Modern spaces encourage movement, have places for students to work together, and use the power of technology to help students learn. Through this 10-year plan, our district can start updating its oldest classrooms and provide better learning spaces for students at all levels.
- Students will have more room as current space is better aligned to program needs
We have several schools that are bigger than the ideal size for the program offered. There are other buildings where we need to address things such as total enrollment, lunchroom size, and overall condition. Many of our schools were built before the government set new laws for special education class sizes and made other rules that we must follow for other programs. This 10-year plan gives our community a chance to make sure children are learning in spaces that contribute to, rather than detract from, their education and school experience.
- We will need to seek community support to fund the plan
It has been seven years since the district last needed to pass a new operating levy and 19 years since needing bond money for new schools. District officials have worked hard to strengthen finances, stretch resources, and run the schools within current means. As a result, they have avoided deficit spending at least six years longer than first expected. They have improved the district’s financial picture, even while restoring programs and services after deep budget cuts several years ago. These efforts are being noticed and making great things happen for our schools. Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded the district’s tax bond rating from Aa2 to Aa1, which is the second-highest possible rating. This better rating means lower interest payments on borrowed funds, which also means savings for taxpayers. We are one of very few Ohio school districts with either the highest or the second highest rating from Moody’s.
- The plan is comprehensive for both construction and operating costs over the next 10 years
Many years ago, our district built new schools, but it did not have the operating funds to open them. Clearly, we do not want something like this to happen again. In November 2019, voters approved Issue 8, a combined issue to build two new schools, repair or renovate others, and fund operating costs for several years. This ballot issue covered building projects in the first five years of the plan. The second phase of the plan is just as important because it identifies another set of schools that will be at least 55 years old and need work. The second five years of the facilities plan would need to be funded by another ballot issue several years from now, which likely would include operating funds to keep schools running.