Delaware News

Remodeled Harrison Street ready for action

Big Walnut district leaders prepared for more students in 2014-15

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Students in the Big Walnut School District will return to school Wednesday, Aug. 13, and this year, all seven school buildings are open for business.

Harrison Street Elementary School has been vacant since 2010, when the district, in search of $3.7 million in budget cuts after a pair of levy failures, closed its doors.

Now in a better financial position, the district was able to bring students back to a remodeled Harrison Street this year as well as introduce all-day kindergarten.

Superintendent Steve Mazzi suggested closing Harrison Street in order to save money.

Now, he said he is excited the district is able to reopen the school and welcome new staff into the building.

"I was the superintendent that recommended the closing four years ago," Mazzi said. "I'm excited for reopening and for our community and our students who will be attending there."

As a districtwide goal, officials are focused on reducing class sizes and maintaining all facilities. Reopening Harrison Street made strides to help reduce class sizes at Rosecrans and Souders elementary schools for teachers and provide all-day kindergarten as another option for parents and students.

"Harrison Street put dominoes in that," Mazzi said. "We were able to pull kids out of the building, which helped open room for all-day kindergarten and has been overwhelmingly received."

More than 20 staff members will start new positions in the district, including new positions and replacements for those who have left.

Mazzi said it is too soon to tell how many new students will enter the district this year; he said officials won't have a final count until the end of this week.

However, he expects higher enrollment this year.

"I think what we'll find the end of next week is that our enrollment is up by the sheer fact that we have high enrollment numbers in all-day kindergarten," he said. "We've been able to reduce class sizes reopening Harrison Street, but I still hear that our class size is large."

Smaller additions were made around the district in anticipation of larger classes. Since their construction in the 1970s, the classrooms at Souders and Big Walnut elementary schools have never had doors, following an open-concept plan, Mazzi said.

For safety reasons and as an update, doors have been added to both schools' classrooms this year.

Big Walnut schools will join the other Delaware County districts this year as a nonsmoking campus.

In previous years, visitors could smoke in a designated area outside Big Walnut High School. Now, officials will keep the entire campus smoke-free.

"Our campuses will be 100 percent smoke-free," Mazzi said. "We had bingo here in the past and there was stipulation on Tuesday nights that people could smoke at the back of our high school. We have joined the other Delaware County schools and can say our campus is smoke-free."

The first day of school for elementary school, middle school and high school students is Aug. 13. Kindergartners and preschoolers start class Aug. 18.

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