Last year's levy loss resulted in several deep cuts to the Groveport Madison Local School District. However, school officials say they are hopeful for the coming year, looking forward to several opportunities that could have a positive impact on the district.
Among those are the potential for a second round of funding through a state of Ohio Straight A Grant; new English, social studies, science and math curriculums; additional technology investments; and the hope for a successful operating levy campaignto restore busing and other programs, as well as a potential capital improvement ballot issue to update school facilities.
In December, the district learned it had been awarded $1.8 million in Straight A Grant funding to pursue training for staff, related to developing a new blended learning program.
The new program will provide students with flexibility in scheduling coursework, using a combination of traditional classwork as well as online learning resources, according to Superintendent Bruce Hoover.
"Blended learning creates the opportunity to offer flexible service options for the kids and will us move forward to a one-to-one technology curriculum solution, allowing students to carry a Chromebook or iPad or similar (device) instead of a bunch of text books," Hoover said. "This will help us out academically by providing a high level of modern services."
Hoover said that the district will participate in the second Straight A funding round where it will be eligible for another $13 million in June. If the district is successful, those monies would go into the actual development and implementation of the blended learning programs.
Director of School Improvement Monique Hamilton has been working with a specially assigned group of teachers and administrators to develop a new curriculum aimed at meeting new Ohio learning standards, and potentially bridging current students into more of a blended learning environment.
"We're in the process of revising curriculum to align with Ohio's new learning standards. That's a very large project with a deadline of March to have it up and ready to go before teachers leave for the summer," Hamilton said. "We are well within our budget of $800,000 and are currently working to determine if the recommendation will be to use traditional textbooks, digital media or if it will be an all online curriculum."
Hamilton said that a Literacy Grant provided the district with funds to launch its Joyful Reading Project in January, and already, more than 70 families are registered.
"The project is to get kindergarten families to increase reading skills, so we're working with the Educational Services Center to provide these opportunities to parents to encourage enhancement of literacy skills," Hamilton said.
Technology Supervisor Peter Dotson said that the largest investment his department will make this year is the procurement of an additional 660 Google Chromebooks to be utilized by students and teachers.
According to Dotson the Chromebooks have been extremely popular with teachers, with an average of 400 being checked out every school day after they were introduced at the beginning of this school year. Not only are they being used for lessons, they have also had a dramatic impact on reducing required assessment testing times.
"The Chromebooks give us more teaching time and less test time over the old way we'd have to do testing. For example, the MAP testing last year took us around five weeks to complete, this year it got down to five days," Dotson said. "They're great for testing but they're used every day for all sorts of things."
District officials anticipate a school board vote in January to ask voters to approve a $5 million operating levy on the May 6 ballot.
Treasurer Tony Swartz said the levy likely will be smaller than the district normally would require after a levy failure, thanks to increased state funding he expects.
"Our last ask was $5.5 million. Normally we'd be even further behind after a loss, and need to ask for the same amount again, plus more. But given that we're expecting to get an additional $3 million from the state next year, I don't think it would be appropriate to ask for more than that," Swartz said.
Beside the operating levy, officials have begun reviewing options for dealing with maintenance and school crowding issues across the district, but in particular at Groveport Madison High School.
The district hired SHP, an Ohio-based facilities design firm, to review the district's needs and provide options.
During the Dec. 11 school board meeting, representatives from the firm explained that, according to their findings, the high school facilities will require at least $16 million in maintenance over the next 15-20 years and currently, is almost 85,000 square feet too small for the student population.
Officials are thus considering options that could include asking voters for a 2.75-mill capital improvement levy this year on top of the operating levy, in order to raise a necessary $33.3 million. That would be combined with $29.6 million in Ohio facility funds, to build a new 235,000 square-foot high school.
Todd Thackery, vice president of SHP, said that the cost to residents would be about $6 per month for a $100,000 home and the building project would likely take three-years to complete.