Classes began Wednesday, Aug. 13, for most Gahanna-Jefferson students

Classes began Wednesday, Aug. 13, for most Gahanna-Jefferson students

Sophomores, juniors and seniors return Aug. 14.

G-J Superintendent Francis Scruci said he wants to return to the idea of complete education for the estimated 7,200 students in the district, as opposed to focusing so heavily on just the new Third-Grade Reading Guarantee and teacher evaluations.

"I commend the professionalism of our teachers and administration," Scruci said. "With one year under our belt of going through the reading guarantee and jumping over the hurdles, I think there's a sense of calm."

Last year marked the first year of the state-mandated reading guarantee, a program designed to identify students in kindergarten through third grade who are behind in reading. Except for those with special circumstances, third-grade students had to meet a minimum score on the state reading test to advance to fourth grade.

Teachers also were subjected to a new evaluation system.

"With all of the legislation and the increase in testing, it forced the focus away from students," Scruci said. "We've been sidetracked. I want focused back on the student learner. We want to build strong relationships with students and staff. I want to get back with that focus."

Scruci said the district has 63 new staff members and three new administrators, including a new high school principal (see related story), preschool director and curriculum person.

"Our high school enrollment will go up in the 150 range," Scruci said. "We graduated 565 seniors, and we'll be over 700 with the (freshman) class replacing them. Creating a master schedule for another 140 kids in that building is a task. But it's one we embrace. It's better to have more kids than to lose kids."

He said the district also is looking at online options to bring back some students who are using other online options.

"We're looking to bring them under our umbrella," Scruci said.

Gahanna-Jefferson also is the recipient of a grant from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight A Fund.

"We'll open a Fab (fabrication) Lab in September," Scruci said. "We looked through the shell in July. It's an exciting opportunity for the kids to get in those learning opportunities."

He said the Lions stadium also would be more inviting in the football season, thanks to the athletics department taking on the task of installing new bleachers.

Athletics director Justin Sanford said the cost of the $700,000 bleachers is being financed entirely by Gahanna athletics donors, partners and a personal seat-license option.

The new bleachers will accommodate 3,200 fans on the west side of the field that will become the new home side.

The Lions' home opener will be Aug. 29 against Huber Heights Wayne High School.

"We have a lot of positive things going on," Scruci said. "Our early (state) grade card results are favorable. We will have met indicators to meet an A. Our performance index also went up."

With classes starting earlier than in previous years, Scruci said, he sees a lot of positives.

"It's like college ending the first semester at Christmas break," he said. "All the finals will be done. Come January, it will be new material.

"And getting out before the end of May will give kids the opportunity to get jobs," he said. "It's more in line with college schedules. Now our high school kids can be competitive with the college kids for jobs."