For the Delaware City School District, 2014 will be a groundbreaking year -- in both senses of the word.
Delaware City Council has approved expansion and renovation plans for Schultz Elementary School, and work is expected to be in full force by summer. It's part of a construction plan that will see all of the district's schools renovated over the next few years, thanks to 2013's successful bond issue.
Construction plans for Dempsey Middle School are being finalized and are scheduled to be approved this month by City Council.
The district also will prepare Hayes High School for additions this year.
"The construction at Dempsey and Schultz will be very visible this summer, and we are planning to do our biggest and most disruptive construction during the summer so that it will have minimal impact on our students," said Superintendent Paul Craft.
The district this year will meet with staff, community members and stakeholders to form plans for the other buildings and make sure the renovations will support the educational programs at the schools, Craft said.
The district also will implement new state assessments at the high school in 2014, including new end-of-course exams.
"These assessments won't change who we are or what we do, but we are aware of them and want to make sure our students are prepared to take them," Craft said.
Over the summer, the district will hold a summit during which staffers and residents will discuss the priorities of the district.
"These past few years, we have spent a lot of time reacting to what state legislation is doing and implementing their mandates," Craft said.
"We are going to take time to ask ourselves what we value and what experiences we want to see our students have before they leave for the real world."
Craft said they will look at some course offerings and curriculum to find out what changes should be made.
"We are going to look from the bottom up," he said. "We are going to make sure that our kids are getting opportunities and experiences that match what we believe they need to have."
Craft said one of the challenges this year will be covering for less state funding.
"We continue to work on delivering a quality education to our students that's affordable to our taxpayers," he said.
Craft said the district also will focus on the percentage of students who are facing challenges that impact their ability to grow the way the district knows they can.
"We have students with mental health problems, family problems and learning disabilities who need a fair amount of support in order for them to be successful," he said.
"And at the other end of the spectrum, we're constantly trying to make sure we are challenging our gifted students enough so that they can continue to perform in the highest way they can."
Union negotiations for collective bargaining agreements with the school board will take place in the spring so they can be approved before they expire in July.
For Craft personally, he will continue his doctorate work that he has put on hold since he accepted his role with the school district.
"My doctorate work is currently at a standstill and I want to make sure that I keep in touch with my research that I started," he said.
Craft said he will work with a fairly new and young administrative team in 2014 and make sure they work as a team and are meeting the needs of the district staff.
Jayna McDaniel-Browning has begun her first four-year term on the school board, replacing Harry Pape, who decided not to run for re-election.
"Harry was just what I visualized as a great board member, and will be missed," Craft said. "Jayna is sharp and very interested in the community and I believe she will be great addition to the board."
Craft said he thinks 2014 will be a good year overall.
"It will be a different year, but also exciting," he said.