Students in the Bexley City School District will head back to the classroom Wednesday, Aug. 14, for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
With the day comes old traditions, new beginnings and perhaps some trepidation on the part of new students.
"I'm really excited as we begin the new school year, with all the energy, opportunities that come from that fresh start," said Carol Fey, Bexley school board president. "Classes begin Aug. 14, and this week and next, all of the school board members and Dr. (Mike) Johnson (superintendent) are knocking on the doors of our new students to offer individual welcomes."
All this week, students will pick up their new schedules, attend orientations and get a peek at their new classrooms during ice cream socials and other school events.
Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 12 and 13, are in-service days for teachers in preparation for the first day of school.
Both Johnson and Fey are looking forward to the new year.
Johnson said he is pleased with a number of initiatives that "turned into great realities" last year, paving the way for some new opportunities this year. A highlight is the hiring of Kimberly Brazwell, the district's new student and community support specialist, who will further develop the district's work in the area of overcoming non-academic barriers to learning while strengthening the social and emotional environment of the student community.
"I look forward to receiving the results of the 40 Developmental Asset survey that was administered to students last spring, and using that feedback to refine the directions that new position will take," Fey said. "I expect that during this school year, the board will host one or more additional community forums on topics that arise out of these results, to help gain community input into our programming."
Both Johnson and Fey are eager to implement a new curriculum this year, particularly in the area of math.
"We believe it will contribute quite a bit to our state report card," said Johnson, commending teachers and administrations for their work in this area.
Johnson said he expects the district to continue to expand its dual enrollment program this year as high school students continue to receive college credit for many of the courses they are taking at Bexley High School. The district's work in this area has led to national recognition as one of the top achieving schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. New this year is an African American History dual enrollment course at Bexley High School.
Fey points out the district has worked in tandem with the school board to provide opportunities for all children in Bexley.
"We consistently look for ways to enhance the educational experience of our highest performing students as well as ways to engage and improve the performances of those students who are more challenged," Fey said. "From initiatives to expand the use of available technology in our classrooms, to focused programs to improve reading and understanding, to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curricula, to expansion of interesting and relevant curriculum options, to offering high school students opportunities to earn college credit from some of their courses, to improvement of nutrition and overall wellness of our students, to continued excellence of our arts programs, and to ensure that all of our students have access to the programs we offer, the board has encouraged new initiatives while keeping a careful eye on district finances."
Following December's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the district continues to take a hard look at its security measures.
Johnson said schools will receive new cameras this year, and updates to old ones. Money awarded to districts through a state worker's compensation refund will go toward changing the locks on all schools so that they can be secured from the inside in the event of a lockdown.
As always, achievement will be a top focus and its effects of the new state report card set to roll out this year. Johnson said there is a new emphasis on the card's Performance Index scoring. The Performance Index provides an overall indication of how well students perform on the state report card in grades 3-8, and the Ohio Graduation Test in grade 10. To reach the achievement levels the district has enjoyed in the past, Bexley will have to raise its index score.
But Fey added it is not just the academics that make a well-rounded student.
"The board supports a broad student experience. High student participation in sports and other extracurricular activities enhances the educational experience for the majority of our students, and I'm pleased to see such a wide range of available options," she said. "Many of our students benefit from the social, collaborative and competitive aspects of these activities."
Students at St. Charles Preparatory School and the Columbus School for Girls begin their year Wednesday, Aug. 21.