Superintendent Steve Dackin will return to the school board in January with a recommendation on how district buildings should be configured once new elementary and high schools are built.

Superintendent Steve Dackin will return to the school board in January with a recommendation on how district buildings should be configured once new elementary and high schools are built.

Core committee leaders from the high school and the elementary schools presented their recommendations to the Reynoldsburg Board of Education Dec. 16. Assistant Superintendent Dan Hoffman said the core committees were assigned to investigate designs for the elementary schools and the high schools, focusing on what they believe is best for students and their families.

"That has to be our primary criteria. The second is, what can you be enthusiastic about?" Hoffman said. "If it's not something that excites the teachers, let's not bring it forward."

The elementary core committee recommended that most of Reynoldsburg's elementaries should remain regular neighborhood schools with one being designated as a "school of choice."

The school of choice could be configured as a mixed-gender or single-gender school, one with multi-age classrooms or one that offers a year-round program.

Elementary core committee team leader Joanne Maurer, a third- and fourth-grade prevention teacher at Graham Road Elementary, said the recommendation was based on community feedback that indicated a desire to keep neighborhood schools, but with the option of a school of choice.

"We felt we could fulfill both goals," Maurer said.

Slate Ridge Elementary reading intervention teacher Steve Griffin, also on the elementary core committee, said schools of choice fall into three broad categories: how the world works, how we communicate and how we learn.

"If I covered all of the research and findings, there would be stacks and it would go beyond the scope of this presentation," Griffin said.

He said how the world works involves science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). How we communicate includes performing arts, world languages and communication. How we learn includes strategy and instruction that might be "outside the box."

The schools of choice concept would also involve a rigorous, standards-based curriculum with hands-on learning through projects and would involve partnerships with community groups and businesses, similar to a STEM school setup.

The high school core committee team offered two models. One places freshmen and sophomores in one building and juniors and seniors in another. The second model would place students in grades 9-12 in each high school, but one school would emphasize math and science while the other would focus on arts and humanities.

High school core committee leader and art teacher Tommy Timmons said their recommendation of both models were based on the core values of encouraging and enabling lifelong learning; personalization, which allows ownership of choices that honor diversity and builds on the strength of the community; and community expectations, which create opportunity, provide safety, and prepare students for change in a technological society.

He said the Model A configuration would place ninth- and 10th-grade students in what is now Reynoldsburg High School. Students in grades 11 and 12 would attend the new high school once it is built on Summit Street.

The benefits of Model A would include ensuring equity, a horizontal consistency and grade level databases with no overlapping costs, Timmons said.

Hoffman also gave Dackin a proposal to use a STEM school setup for all K-12 schools in the district.

The core committee team leader for researching the STEM setup was Waggoner Road Junior High School assistant principal Leslie Kelly.

She said a STEM arrangement should prepare students to think well, which uses a scientific exploration of complex topics; do good, which through partnerships enhances work in and out of the classroom; and create beauty, where arts and humanities are integral.

"It's more about teaching kids to be problem-solvers," Kelly said. "It's not all about science, engineering and math. It's inquiry-based learning, looking for patterns, looking for ways to get deeper, at a higher level, using critical thinking and synthesizing information," she said.

dowen@thisweeknews.com