Looking ahead to 2014, Marysville School District Superintendent Diane Mankins takes a deep breath and utters a modest understatement.

Looking ahead to 2014, Marysville School District Superintendent Diane Mankins takes a deep breath and utters a modest understatement.

"We have a lot of exciting things going on," she said.

Foremost on her mind is getting a $12.4-million state-funded project off the ground.

Marysville schools recently received the multimillion dollar grant from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight A Fund as seed money to start an early college school.

The Ohio Hi-Point Joint Vocational School District, Columbus State Community College, Honda of America Manufacturing, the Union County Chamber of Comm-erce and EDWorks will work with Marysville schools to create the Marysville Early College High School and Union County Innovation Center.

Ohio's first manufacturing-related early college high school will focus on the STEM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- and will be housed in the old middle school at 833 N. Maple St. The building will undergo extensive renovations before opening for the 2014-15 school year.

"The middle school renovation into the early college model is going to be a significant undertaking," Mankins said.

The school is expected to serve nearly 2,000 high school students and adult learners by 2019. Mankins said it will start with approximately 100 freshmen for the 2014-15 school year. Each year, the district will add more incoming freshmen until all grade levels are represented.

The school eventually will offer three academic paths: information technology, manufacturing and health/ medical. The first two will be available in the 2014-15 school year; the district aims to implement the health/ medical focus as part of a subsequent round of grant funding.

The district has to move quickly to get the Maple Street building ready. Under the terms of the grant, all the money must be earmarked by June 30 and spent by Sept. 30.

There are also other items on Mankins' to-do list.

She said the district will spend the next year exploring all-day, every-day kindergarten for all students in the 2015-16 school year, as well as redistricting.

"That's something people are going to hear about when we come back next school year, throughout the summer and into fall as we prepare and get community feedback for those," Mankins said.

At Marysville High School, administrators are working to add Japanese to the foreign language offerings and launch an exchange program with students from Yorii, Japan.

Marysville Mayor John Gore and Union County Economic Development Director Eric Phillips visited Japan in early September as part of a delegation from economic development organization Columbus 2020, along with representatives from Hancock and Logan counties.

The main purpose of the trip was to attend the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference on a business retention and expansion mission. But Gore and Phillips also visited the city of Yorii and spoke to schoolchildren there about a possible exchange program with Marysville students.

A return visit by a delegation from Yorii to Marysville from Dec. 1-4 furthered the discussion.

Mankins met with Yorii Mayor Makoto Shimada during the visit to talk more about an exchange program with the schools of Yorii.

"We're working with the schedule and times that might work. I think the hardest part is getting our school calendars to line up," Mankins said.

On a districtwide basis, the new common core standards and assessments have kept administrators busy for the past year and continue to do so.

"We'll be anxiously preparing for those, and we already have been. They're much more rigorous and require higher-order thinking as opposed to what we're used to with OAAs and OGTs," Mankins said, referring to the Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Test. "That's a significant change for us as well."

Mankins said district officials will continue looking at ways to be fiscally responsible.

"We were able to get in early on buying electricity, and we were able to save about $500,000 with that," she said. "While we're still trying to push forward and think innovatively, we're still trying to find ways to reduce cost and run as efficiently as possible."

Mankins wants the community to be involved with the district and see all the innovative projects in the works.

"It's an exciting time to be a part of Marysville schools," she said.