When Olentangy schools open their doors Wednesday, Aug. 13, the district will welcome 18,952 students -- about 850 more than when the schools closed for summer vacation.

When Olentangy schools open their doors Wednesday, Aug. 13, the district will welcome 18,952 students -- about 850 more than when the schools closed for summer vacation.

Mark Raiff, the district's chief academic officer, said the Olentangy staff has eagerly been awaiting the students' return.

"When the kids get back here, it just brings all the energy back into the (district)," he said.

Students and parents returning to the district may notice a few ongoing changes in how Olentangy teachers educate their pupils.

Raiff said as the state gradually shifts toward online standardized testing, the district is moving with it. He said the district -- with a lot of help from PTOs -- has been adding more laptops, tablets and other high-tech learning tools to its buildings.

"I do think parents are going to see a lot more devices in the buildings (this year)," he said.

Along with an increased number of devices, Raiff said elementary, middle and high school students will see more of what the district calls "blended learning."

Under a blended-learning approach, students interact with their teachers and peers online outside of normal classroom hours. For instance, a teacher could post a question online after class that leads to a discussion among students, which might continue in the classroom the next day.

"That's a big part of how colleges operate now," Raiff said.

He said it's the district's hope that students who encounter blended learning throughout their time in Olentangy schools will be better prepared for higher education.

Incoming freshmen at Olentangy's high schools will not have to worry about the Ohio Graduation Test. Incoming sophomores will be the last group of students required to pass that assessment in order to graduate.

The state of Ohio is phasing out the test in favor of end-of-course exams in Algebra I, American government, American history, English Language Arts I and II, geometry and physical science.

Additionally, 11th-graders -- starting with the class of 2018 -- will be required to pass English, math, science and social studies assessments that align with national Common Core standards.

Raiff said another change in state law may excite students and parents more than the end of the OGT.

"A big benefit for this incoming freshman class is the state is actually going to pay for the ACT when they're (juniors)," he said.

The law that phases out the OGT also sets up two possible graduation paths for students who do not want to take the seven end-of-course exams.

Students who score well enough on the ACT to prove they will not need to take remedial classes in college will be eligible for graduation, as will students who pass a job-skills exam and earn a state-approved license or credentials.

Another change in state law means this year will be the first in which students are required to attend school for a set number of hours instead of days. Under the change, students in grades 7-12 will be required to attend a minimum of 1,001 hours.

Olentangy officials have said district students attend 1,114 hours annually. Thanks to the change, the district could call more calamity days without having to make up the time at the end of the school year or through take-home assignments.

In addition to changes in state law and curriculum, students and parents will see the results of about $1.3 million in capital improvements when they return to school.

Those improvements include:

• a partial roof replacement at Olentangy High School.

• a new HVAC system and lockers at Shanahan Middle School.

• energy-efficient perimeter lighting at Orange and Liberty high schools.