Olentangy Valley News

AP academy, STEM center

Options abound as Olentangy tries to find more space

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Olentangy Local School District officials are considering a wide range of options in their quest to educate more students without constructing new buildings.

At a meeting March 14, Executive Director of Academics Mark Raiff updated board members on the latest ideas to cope with the district's rapidly growing student body.

Raiff detailed several ideas outlined in a new report from the district's Project 2020 planning committee, unveiled last month.

Officials have long discussed the possibility of opening an Advanced Placement academy, which could be set up in a leased building to free up classroom space in the district's three high schools. Students taking those classes would travel to the new building during the school day.

The plan would allow high schools to consolidate several low-enrollment AP courses, such as art history or music theory, into a single classroom, Raiff said.

"It's a way to serve our students more efficiently and open up some more space," he said.

Students could return to their home schools at the end of the day for sports or extracurricular activities, board member Julie Wagner Feasel said.

Raiff added the district would work out some means of transportation for students who need it, though most students who enroll in AP courses are mobile juniors and seniors.

Officials said leasing a space would save on construction costs. The AP academy also wouldn't need typical school amenities such as a gymnasium or sports fields.

Raiff said he estimates an academy could be up and running by the fall.

Another idea is to create a STEM center in a leased space, focused on science, technology, engineering and math courses instead of only AP courses.

Raiff said a similar concept could be put to use in a dual enrollment center. In that plan, the district would rent a space to enroll ambitious students in college classes.

Olentangy students already enroll in those classes at Columbus State Community College's Delaware campus and elsewhere, but Raiff said those opportunities may become limited.

"Columbus State continues to grow, so we don't foresee that we'll be able to utilize their space in the long term," he said.

He said the district could hire dedicated dual enrollment teachers and have the facility running for the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Raiff also discussed the possibility of opening an online instruction center.

Officials predict the district's current small lineup of online courses will continue to grow as students look for more flexible schedules or want to accelerate their credit attainment.

Raiff said a dedicated physical space could be set up as a support center for students enrolled in online courses.

Teachers would work in the space to collaboratively develop online courses, instruct students remotely, and offer office hours and group-learning experiences when applicable.

New online courses could be developed in the fall, when the online instruction center could open, Raiff said.

He said other nontraditional options are available, such as evening classes or expanded summer-school offerings.

No decisions have been made about whether to pursue any of the options.

"We have heard some options and we will have further discussion on how to narrow those down and choose a strategy at upcoming meetings," board President Kevin O'Brien said.

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