Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Rob Walker this week said the district will not eliminate "honors" classes in the 2013-14 school year.
In response to concerns recently raised by parents over the district's possible elimination of honors classes at the high school and junior high levels, Walker Monday, Feb. 11, said no such action will be taken next school year, or in the near future.
Rather, the district's superintendent said honors courses will be worked into curriculum to enhance the new "Common Core" academic standards which will be implemented by state mandate for the 2013-14, and which are designed to better prepare students for college and careers after high school.
"There is no change to our honors courses next year or in the foreseeable future," Walker said.
Concerns about the future of honors courses in Pickerington's junior high and high schools arose late last month.
Parents who attended a Jan. 28 Pickerington School Board meeting said they'd gotten wind of a rumor teachers at the district's two high schools had been told by administrators honors courses would be eliminated in 2013-14 and be replaced with the state-mandated Common Core.
According to information provided by Walker's office at that time, 3,931 Pickerington high school students (1,765 at Pickerington High School Central and 2,166 at Pickerington High School North) currently take honors classes, and 308 junior high students (165 at Lakeview and 143 at Ridgeview) do so, as well.
At the Jan. 28 meeting, several parents spoke against eliminating honors courses, contending the courses are needed to fill learning and curriculum gaps for students who wish to take Advanced Placement classes.
They also said honors coursework is vital to many college applications, and noted eliminating it next year would look bad for students in the class of 2014, who have taken the classes in previous years, but would not in their senior year.
Monday, Walker said the concerns were the result of a "misunderstanding" between his office, building administrators and teachers.
He added the district will keep honors classes ongoing, but those classes likely will become even more challenging because they'll be offered in addition to the new Common Core, which is being designed to yield more rigorous standards for math and language arts and new student tests.
"Honors courses cannot be the same criteria as it is for the Common Core," Walker said.
"The expectation for honors classes is they will go above and beyond what is expected for the Common Core. Our expectation for honors classes is they will cover that information much quicker."
Walker also said the district next school year will provide "dual-enrollment" opportunities to high school students for the first time.
Under the preliminary plan, Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North students could complete coursework at their high school which is accepted by all of Ohio's colleges and universities.
Successful completion of designated coursework would allow the students to earn college credit as part of their normal high school day.
In other news from Monday night's school board meeting, Susan Hite with the PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington presented the board with a plaque in appreciation for the district's partnership with the food pantry.
Hite said partnerships with classes at each of the PLSD's 14 schools have resulted in the direct donation of $12,360 to the food pantry so far in the 2012-13 school year, as well as "thousands and thousands" of canned goods.
"We are so grateful to the school district for being a partner with us," Hite said. "... We are so proud of that effort in our community and in our schools.
"Your outstanding commitment to support this vital service makes a tremendous difference."
Additionally, the board voted 4-1 to approve new standards set forth by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for people employed temporarily by the district to work jobs such as ticket-takers and official scorers during post-season athletic events held at district facilities.
According to district officials, people who worked those games in the past were paid by the district, but not through the district's payroll system.
Now, the individuals will be required to undergo background checks and will be paid through the district's payroll system so OHSAA and the IRS can better track them.
Pickerington's interim Treasurer Vince Utterback said the temporary employees would be paid through ticket sales revenues, and not the district's general operating fund.
He noted the district won't incur additional costs, but workers likely will make less money because various taxes, such as Medicaid, will be taken out of their checks.
Board Member Jim Brink, citing concerns over how the payments will be managed and what taxes will be taken out, voted against the measure.