Rocky Fork Enterprise

225 middle school students

Gahanna-Jefferson seeks balanced plan in redistricting

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

In an effort to provide equitable enrollment and programming within the Gahanna-Jefferson schools, the school board has approved a redistricting plan that would affect about 225 students.

Superintendent Francis Scruci told the board Jan. 10 that when he joined the district last summer, parents expressed concerns about inequities in enrollment and programs at the middle schools.

"We formed a committee and worked on that," he said. "With what we recommend, the numbers will flatten and even out. More importantly, the program for special-needs students will be streamlined. Special-needs students stay with their peers K-12. This proposal is to do what's best for these students and all students in Gahanna."

Effective with the 2013-14 school year, middle school students living in Blacklick, Eastpoint apartments, Rosebrook apartments, Waterford Park, Stonehill, Belltown apartments and on East Broad Street will attend Middle School South.

Middle school students living in the Rocky Fork area will be assigned to Middle School West.

Under the plan, elementary students living in Underwood Farms, Polo Club, Groves Drive and on Johnstown Road, from Morse Road to Hamilton Road, will attend High Point Elementary School.

Some students currently being provided special-education services at Middle School South, Middle School West and Royal Manor and Jefferson elementaries will be assigned equitable programming at a building to be determined by the type of special-needs services provided.

Scruci thanked the committee members who met weekly to work on the plan starting last September.

Committee members were Scruci, Scott Schmidt, executive director of business and school improvement; Jill Schuler, board member; Sue Weiging, special-education coordinator; the principals and assistant principals of the three middle schools; two parents from each of the buildings; and an additional five community members and/or parents who served in a similar role during the last redistricting.

Schuler said the redistricting plan would be revisited regularly.

"This isn't something set in stone forever," she said. "There's a commitment to revisit it."

Scruci said the plan would be examined every two years.

Currently, he said, Middle School West has 100 more students than the other two middle schools.

Public-information officer Michael Straughter said the new plan is designed to make the path from elementary to middle school more consistent for special-education students so that they remain with their classroom peers and friends.

With the existing sibling policy, Straughter said, families may continue to transfer their student to another school.

During the board's organizational meeting, Claire Yoder was re-elected as president. She started serving on the board in 2002, and this marks her fourth stint as president.

"I have a passion for kids' education," she told ThisWeek. "I'm an innovative leader. I like to think outside the box and do it with the financial resources available."

Schuler was re-elected as board vice president. She has served on the board since 2010.

Dewitt Harrell also was appointed during the board meeting to take the seat vacated by Heather Bishoff, who won her bid in November for the Ohio House of Representatives'20th District seat.

Harrell is chief financial officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The board also set its 2013 meetings to be held the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Clark Hall, 380 Granville St.

An additional meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m. June 28 to review 2013 fiscal year financials.

During regular board discussion, Scruci said he has received many emails from community members concerning the safety of district students because of the tragedy in Newton, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman.

"We'll do everything in our power to keep kids safe," he said. "I feel confident our principals are keeping kids safe at all times."

He said he has heard suggestions about armed guards, principals carrying guns and Tasers.

"There are costs associated with armed guards," he said. "I don't feel that's the answer. If someone wants to do harm, they will. Our principals won't be toting guns and probably not Tasers. In the next month or so, we'll have recommendations to increase the safety of our buildings."

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