Delaware News

Delaware City and Big Walnut Schools

Repurposed buildings figure in 'excellent' districts' 2012

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Head cook Alicia Huffer cleans the tray bar in the cafeteria in Big Walnut Intermediate School in July before the school's opening. The new intermediate school opened its doors to fifth- and sixth-graders Aug. 22.
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School buildings were a major concern among area school districts in 2012, whether students were moving into "new" ones or leaders were figuring out how to make the old ones hold more kids.

Here's a look back at a few of 2012's top stories in Delaware and Big Walnut schools.

 

'Hybrid' school opens

The 2012-13 school year began a new chapter for 435 students in the Big Walnut Local School District with the opening of an intermediate school for fifth- and sixth-graders.

The closed, half-century-old brick building at 105 Baughman St. in Sunbury was well-suited to be used as a school again. It had served as the district's original high school and as a middle school until a couple of years ago when it closed.

Sixteen regular classrooms were readied for the opening of the intermediate school Aug. 22, as well as renovations made to other sections of the building.

"We're going to be a kind of hybrid of elementary and middle school with a program that best meets the needs of the kids that will be here," Principal Steve Butler said last summer.

The academic program offers four core subjects -- math, science, language arts and social studies -- as well as art, music and physical education.

The school has a capacity for 475 students and had an immediate impact of helping to reduce overcrowding at several schools that sent their students to the intermediate school.

The school is staffed by 21 full-time teachers, six part-time teachers and about 20 support personnel, including aides and food-service workers.

An added benefit was that officials closed the old central office building in Galena last summer and moved the staff there, along with the superintendent and treasurer, to renovated offices at the intermediate school.

 

Managing growth

In October, the Delaware school board approved a renewal of the district's three-year strategic plan.

One of the more-urgent areas the district chose to focus on is facilities, because of increasing enrollment and state budget cuts.

Superintendent Paul Craft said enrollment projections show the district's student body will increase by 2 percent over the next several years.

However, Craft said even if the district doesn't have a single new student enroll in the schools, Hayes High School enrollment still will increase 500 students in the next six years.

Craft offered his recommendation of what he said he believes is a cost-effective solution to the increasing enrollment and overcrowding in the schools.

He proposed the district place a bond issue of a little less than 2 mills on the May 2013 ballot in order to pay for several building additions and renovations.

Under Craft's plan, elementary schools would house students in grades K-5; Dempsey Middle School would house students in grades 6-8; Hayes would continue as the high school; and Willis Intermediate School would become a district administration center, alternative education center and virtual learning center, and would be available for use by community organizations.

"We are always reluctant to ask taxpayers for more money, but I think we have a compelling case," Craft said.

 

Distinctive honors

In 2012, Big Walnut schools earned an "excellent with distinction" rating on the state report card for the first time.

The previous six years, Big Walnut has an "excellent" rating from the state.

"I am so proud of our students and staff for working so hard to earn this honor, and I thank the community for supporting our students and staff," school board President Pamula Lillie said in November.

Big Walnut pulled in a 105.8 performance index score out of a possible 120. In 2011, it scored 104.6.

The district met all indicators on state tests in such areas as reading, math and science.

The 3,000-student district also met standards for attendance rate (95.4 percent); graduation rate (92.9 percent); adequate yearly progress, showing students achieved at a higher level then required; and value-added, which shows academic achievement among various subgroups, such as students who have disabilities.

Angie Pollock, Big Walnut's director of academic achievement, praised the collaborative work in the district to improve, particularly efforts by teachers.

"Obviously, all our teachers have been working very hard ... getting kids to the level they need to be," Pollock said. "We really pushed all the kids to that next level."

Delaware schools also scored the top grade on the state report card, continuing its meteoric rise from its "academic watch" status of the early 2000s.

"I couldn't be happier with this rating," Craft said. "We took a huge jump and maintained it, year after year, and will continue to move ahead on the same path we've been on."

Big Walnut and Delaware, along with Delaware County's other two school districts, were among the 138 districts statewide to receive the state's top rating.

 

No 'shenanigans'

After news broke last summer that Columbus City Schools officials had allegedly altered their enrollment figures in order to change their state report card and subsequent rankings, some local residents brought Delaware schools' integrity into question.

According to an email written by a Delaware resident, sent to Craft and other officials in the county, concerns were raised that Delaware might be among the districts altering records to get an unfair advantage.

Craft said that sort of behavior is so opposite of the way Delaware does business he was disturbed any licensed educator would even think to do it.

"We're not doing any shenanigans," he said in August.

"Our ratings are due to our great teachers, great efforts from students and the support of families, not data manipulation."

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