Marysville News

Schools seek $15 million from Straight A Fund

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Marysville schools Superintendent Diane Mankins presented a plan to the board of education at its Oct. 17 meeting that had members buzzing.

The district is requesting a $15 million grant from Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Straight A Fund to renovate the old Maple Street Middle School building as an alternative high school -- one that Mankins said will be an early college model.

"Early college does a couple of things: By the time you graduate, you can have your associate's degree and your high school diploma or up to 50 hours of college credit you can transfer," she said.

In September, a newly appointed governing board approved the process for schools to apply for grants from the Straight A Fund, a $250-million program that promotes innovation in Ohio's education system. The first $100 million will be released this year for the 2014-2015 school year and the remaining $150 million will be released the following year for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Ohio Department of Education describes the Straight A Fund as a program to "provide seed money for the most creative and forward-thinking ideas coming from educators and their partners in the public and private sectors."

The idea is for local educators to pursue "significant advancement in raising student achievement, significant advancement in reducing spending, and significant advancement in targeting more resources to the classroom."

Honda, the Union County Chamber of Commerce, Columbus State Community College and Ohio Hi-Point will join the district as part of a consortium that will offer three pathways for students' alternative learning, according to Mankins.

The first is manufacturing, which she said blends in well with the community.

"Union County has done a significant amount of research around the needs of our workforce and our response to that is to try to train where there are going to be gaps in that in the next 10 years," she said.

Plans call for training in welding and robotics to be set up in what was the old music area in Maple Street Middle School.

The second pathway involves IT, multimedia and networking. Mankins said those are topics that came up when administrators talked with seventh- and eighth-graders about their areas of interest.

The third pathway is health science; those courses are planned for the east wing of the building. That piece, however, will come in what Mankins called "the second ask." The district will include that plan in next year's grant proposal.

"What an enormous opportunity for our students and for our community as well," Board President Jeff Mabee said of the proposal.

Districts have until Oct. 25 to submit grant proposals. Recipients will be announced Dec. 17 and awarded the money by June 30, 2014.

"We have this conceptual vision but it will certainly need revision," Mankins said. "There are a lot of pieces and parts in there moving around."

The board praised the innovative thinking and Mankins' leadership in pursuing the grant.

"We said we wanted to go to the next level when we interviewed you and that (alternative high school plan) is it. That's where we are," said Mabee.

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