The school year begins Wednesday, Aug. 21 in the South-Western City School District with several state initiatives and the district's building project underway.

The school year begins Wednesday, Aug. 21 in the South-Western City School District with several state initiatives and the district's building project underway.

Construction began last spring at the four elementary buildings -- Alton Hall, Harmon, Monterey and Prairie Norton -- included in the first phase of the district's Ohio School Facilities Commission construction project.

"I guess right now 'Please excuse our dust' is what we have to say to the community," Superintendent Bill Wise said. "We have a significant amount of work underway and a significant amount of work to complete.

"We want to move forward as quickly as possible to avoid an inflationary impact on the project."

While construction at the four elementary school sites will create some issues related to parking and activity outside the classroom, the work that goes on inside classrooms will not be affected by the construction, he said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the next project -- construction of a new Franklin Heights High School -- will be held Sept. 13 at the school's first home football game, Wise said.

Planning also is continuing for the second phase of the project, which includes constructing new buildings at Darbydale, J.C. Sommer and Stiles elementary schools and a new building to house students from Finland and East Franklin elementary schools and a replacement building for North Franklin Elementary, he said.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for those projects are expected to be held in spring 2014.

"Next summer's going to be busy" with construction work in the district, Wise said.

Inside school buildings, the district is implementing the state's new teacher evaluation system this year, he said.

The biggest change is that a "student growth" component will make up 50 percent of a teacher's score, Wise said.

In the past, a teacher's evaluation was based mostly on what a principal or other administrator observed the instructor doing in the classroom, he said.

That will continue, with the observation making up the other half of the teacher's evaluation, Wise said.

Ohio also is to release the new format for the state report card later this month. The new format will assign districts and schools letter grades, he said. An overall composite letter grade will not be included on the report card until August 2015.

The "Third Grade Reading Guarantee," another initiative of Gov. John Kasich, also begins this school year.

Third-grade students who do not reach certain benchmarks on the state reading achievement test will not be allowed to proceed to fourth grade.

"We started the planning process (for the reading guarantee) last year and put a lot of pieces into place" to help make sure students are able meet the state's reading requirement, Wise said.

One of the district's "bold goals" is to make sure students enter college or the workforce "remediation-free," he said.

A new program is a pilot this year with Columbus State Community College to help with that effort, Wise said.

Under the program, a new dual enrollment physics class at the high schools will enable students to earn both college and high school credit, he said.

The district also is expanding its "college development" course offerings to include language arts and math this year, Wise said.