Reynoldsburg City Schools will begin a new school year Wednesday, Aug. 29, with all high school students reporting to class, while those in lower grades participate in a staggered start to get younger students used to new buildings and new routines.

Reynoldsburg City Schools will begin a new school year Wednesday, Aug. 29, with all high school students reporting to class, while those in lower grades participate in a staggered start to get younger students used to new buildings and new routines.

Students attending all elementary schools, along with Waggoner Road and Hannah J. Ashton middle schools, will go to school on Aug. 29 if their last names begin with A-L. They stay home the next day, Aug. 30, while students with last names starting with M-Z have their first day of school.

At Baldwin Junior High School, STEM@Baldwin and Gateway Academy, all fifth- and sixth-graders will start class on Aug. 29. They stay home on Aug. 30, while seventh- and eighth-graders at those schools begin their first day.

At Waggoner Road Junior High School, the first day for eighth-graders is Aug. 29, then they stay home on Aug. 30 while seventh-graders attend classes.

All grades attend school together on Friday, Aug. 31.

Tina Thomas-Manning, executive director of middle level education, said the staggered start is not new.

"For at least seven years, our goals have remained the same -- a safe start to the year, smooth transitions for students entering new buildings, programs and grade levels and the ability to orient students and personalize the experience of starting a new school year," she said.

Jana Alig, director of elementary education, said the staggered start also helps parents begin a new school year.

"It gives us the option of allowing parents to come with their student on the first day of school, at least for the first hour or so, so they can receive valuable information from teachers and principals," she said.

The district hired all internal staff members to fill new principal positions this year, said Tricia Moore, director of partnerships and shared services.

Pam Bertke will head Waggoner Road Middle School. She was principal of Herbert Mills Elementary School last year.

Teresa Smith will be principal at Herbert Mills this year. She was a third-grade teacher at Summit Road Elementary School and has taught at Mills and at French Run Elementary School.

Scott Bennett is the new principal at Baldwin Road Junior High. He was a teacher and teacher leader at eSTEM Academy last year.

Chris Hardy will head French Run. He was a second-grade teacher at Summit Road Elementary last year and has served as an administrative intern at Slate Ridge Elementary.

Moore said the district "paid special attention to preparing talented employees for principal positions."

"We believe the principal position is critical to our success and have organized the district administration to support and empower principals to make decisions for their schools and their students," she said. "We had more than 70 applicants for the elementary positions, but Teresa and Chris rose to the top. They know Reynoldsburg and they have the talent, passion and strength to lead here."

School board members recently streamlined the RaiderWear dress code to make it easier for parents to understand and for administrators to reinforce, Moore said.

Tops may be worn untucked and may be any color or pattern, but must still have collars. No hoodies are permitted.

Bottoms must be a solid color and although belts are not required, the pants may not sag or drag the floor. Jeans, leggings and sweatpants are not permitted.

The elementary schools do not follow the RaiderWear dress code, but have their own dress code, Moore said.

District dress codes are available online at reyn.org.

Alig said a number of best practices and district initiatives continue this school year, including universal screeners, or diagnostic assessments, in K-4 reading and math.

"We have all added STAR Early Literacy/Reading and Math to our assessment schedule this year," she said. "This provides parents, teachers and students data around reading and math skills, compared to students around the nation."

She said teachers will use the data to communicate with parents about students' reading levels and acquisition of reading skills.

"This will be important as we also educate our families around the third-grade reading guarantee," she said.

Alig said teachers will also implement guided reading and continue to implement and expand on inquiry problem-based learning.

Administrators will begin planning another "school of choice."

"We begin a full year of planning for our second school of choice at the elementary level," Alig said. "Herbert Mills Elementary will be planning and designing a school for global learning and problem-solving, using blended technology to personalize a student's instruction.

"The school will have three main tenets: global learning, inquiry-based learning and blended learning," she said. "We will build on the success of Summit STEM Elementary and broaden our curriculum to include global issues."

She said elementary buildings are progressing well in the implementation of common core state standards, adding second grade.

"Last year, kindergarten and first grade had full implementation of common core standards," Alig said. "This year, we will roll up to include second grade into full implementation, while our district professional development leaders continue to work with the common core standards and their full implementation into instruction and assessment."

She said Summit Road Elementary uses the common core state standards at all grade levels.

Thomas-Manning said Hannah Ashton Middle Schools is "introducing seventh-grade students and staff to the building and taking a blended learning approach" while Waggoner Road Junior High School and Waggoner Road Middle School teachers will spend this year "exploring delivery methods to roll out to students."

"Each school has been charged with determining special opportunities that will meet the academic needs of students and families and make their school one families will seek out," she said.

She said middle level STEM will now serve students in grades five through eight across the district.

"We are excited about the opportunity to bridge K-4 and 9-12 STEM programs, completing our quest for a K-12 STEM pathway," she said. "Our 5-8 grades STEM program attracted over 600 student applicants and will be housed at Baldwin Road Junior High, along with our gifted program at Gateway."