West Side News

Sept. 2 start

School district continues work on facilities, curriculum

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The new school year opens Tuesday, Sept. 2, in South-Western City School District with much of the focus on construction and curriculum.

A later-than-usual start to the school year was scheduled to make sure the district's four new elementary school buildings would be ready for students.

They are on schedule and dedication ceremonies will be held the first week of September at those schools -- Alton Hall, Harmon, Monterey and Prairie Norton.

"It's an exciting time for our district," Superintendent Bill Wise said.

Construction will continue this school year on the phase 2 buildings -- Darbydale, Finland, J.C. Sommer and Stiles elementary schools -- and on the new Bolton Crossing Elementary School, he said.

Students from three of the phase 3 schools will be attending classes at temporary locations this year, although construction at their school sites will not begin until next spring, Wise said.

Richard Avenue students will be attending school in the old Monterey building and Prairie Lincoln students will attend class in the old Prairie Norton building, while West Franklin moves into the old Harmon building.

To better handle the influx of students, classes at the new Monterey and Prairie Norton buildings will begin at 8:05 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than the normal start time for elementary buildings, Wise said. Their school day also will end 15 minutes earlier than the other schools.

"The biggest concern I have is parents getting used to the new traffic patterns," at the new schools, he said. "Once they get used to them, I think everything will be fine."

Construction on a new Highland Park elementary school also will start in the spring.

The district completed renovations at the two elementary schools that will not occupy new buildings -- Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods, Wise said. The renovations were designed to bring those schools in line with the standards at the new buildings.

Work will continue on the construction of a new Franklin Heights High School, which is expected open in fall 2016.

"All of this doesn't include the normal maintenance and improvement work that goes on during the summer," Wise noted.

The curriculum focus will include the implementation of two new initiatives and planning for the implementation of two others next school year, he said.

South-Western is one of 15 central Ohio districts participating in the Innovation Generation Initiative, which started last spring and received more than $14 million in state Straight A Fund grants toward its efforts.

The initiative is part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network and has a goal of establishing career pathways in advanced manufacturing/ robotics, business logistics, health care and information technology.

The district is part of another Straight A Consortium in which partner districts will be evaluating programs to incorporate digital material into the classroom.

South-Western will be purchasing about 3,000 Chromebooks for its high school students and training teachers to evaluate, choose and incorporate digital materials into their classrooms.

While those programs will be fully implemented this year, the district will be planning for the start of two other programs next school year.

"We are looking to start an all-day, every day kindergarten program for 2015-16," Wise said. "We need to make sure we will have sufficient space at our elementary schools."

The school board set a goal for implementing the all-day program next school year, even before all the new elementary buildings were completed, he said.

"Everything looks to be on target," Wise said.

Finally, planning continues for an early college/dual enrollment program in partnership with Columbus State Community College.

Students will have the opportunity to attend courses and earn college credit at Columbus State.

"Those students participating in the program would remain enrolled at their home high school," Wise said. "They would come together for the dual enrollment classes, then return to their home school."

Some logistics issues still need to be finalized, he said.

The goal is for 150 South-Western students to be enrolled the first year.

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