Establishing a revenue stream to maintain and enhance facilities, introducing more technology into classrooms and "fine tuning" the school calendar are among the top objectives of Pickerington Local School District officials in 2017.

Establishing a revenue stream to maintain and enhance facilities, introducing more technology into classrooms and "fine tuning" the school calendar are among the top objectives of Pickerington Local School District officials in 2017.

Next May, the Pickerington Local School District will ask local voters to support a 3-mill permanent improvements levy that would generate about $3.6 million for maintenance of current facilities, technology infrastructure, safety and security improvements and upgrades to district athletics facilities.

It also would free up an average of approximately $1 million the district has diverted each of the previous four years from its general budget -- a fund typically designed to pay for employee salaries, student transportation, instructional support and day-to-day building operations -- to help finance capital projects.

Pickerington Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson called the proposed levy one of the district's "major initiatives" for 2017.

"It would allow for more effective long-range planning," Browning-Thompson said.

"It also would give the district the opportunity to add and upgrade athletic facilities, which is something we have consistently heard is a desire from our community."

Without the levy, Browning-Thompson said, "there is no guarantee that funds will be available for major capital projects."

"In addition to providing a guaranteed revenue stream for our ongoing capital needs, this levy would provide funding for some significant projects community residents have expressed a desire for in the district," she said.

"Those would include construction of a new stadium with turf fields for Pickerington High School Central, (a) turf field for (the) Pickerington High School North stadium, and other athletic facility upgrades.

"This levy also would ensure that more operating funds are used for day-to-day operations of the district, which could positively impact the operating fund balances and the need for future operating levies."

The Pickerington School Board in December voted unanimously to move forward with the levy for those same reasons, according to board President Lori Sanders.

"In my opinion, the primary reason is to have those funds voted and earmarked specifically for capital improvement purposes with the intent of preserving the general fund for operational expenses," Sanders said.

"The expense to maintain our building structures, technology infrastructure, and parking lots is ever increasing, but our expectation is to always provide a safe, clean and functional environment.

"We have additional athletic field improvements and new stadium construction to continue to provide the maximum field and track space to meet the demands of our increasing number of extracurricular activities and to provide improved facilities for our community, in general."

Technology

Another dedicated focus for the district in 2017 will be further implementation of its One2One Technology program, through which every student in the district -- from preschool through 12th grade -- will be given a computer tablet or laptop computer to use in classrooms.

Students in grades 5-12 also will be permitted to take the devices home for homework.

Originally, the district planned to implement the program, which will cost up to $1.2 million per year, by the 2021-22 school year.

But based on returns this year among fifth- and sixth-graders who've received the devices, district officials decided to expedite the program by two years, and roughly 90 percent of the district will be outfitted by the 2017-18 school year.

"Teachers indicate students are significantly more engaged in their schoolwork, behavior problems have decreased and our educators are able to blend the best of traditional and digital teaching methods in their classrooms," Browning-Thompson said.

"This is changing how education is delivered, making our classrooms much more student-centered. In addition to these successes, we have received consistent positive feedback from parents.

"We also have heard from parents of students in schools that are not yet One2One that they would like to see the district step up the investment in this important initiative."

Sanders agreed, saying the board saw enough in the first half of the school year to endorse quicker implementation.

"The initial six-year plan to roll out the One2One technology plan was a well-planned, conservative effort, in my opinion," she said.

"Any time you end up with the opportunity to roll out any plan in four years vs. six, the positives far outweight the potential negative.

"We will have more devices in more hands sooner, and we believe it supports and enhances the educational process," Sanders said.

School calendar

Noting the district's main priority is always the "day-to-day growth, development and achievements" of all students in the district, Browning-Thompson said an objective for the outset of 2017 will be to further tweak the district's school calendar.

The calendar has gone through changes in recent years designed to increase time for classroom instruction, student intervention and teacher collaboration.

The school board is scheduled to resume discussions about the 2017-18 calendar at its meeting Monday, Jan. 9.

"We have seen some great successes from these changes, but we also have identified areas for improvement for 2017-18," Browning-Thompson said.

"Board members will assess (new) recommendations, which included the addition of staff to provide for more art and music education, in early 2017, and determine which ones they believe will benefit the students in the district."

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