About 7,500 students in the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools are scheduled to go back to classes next week.
Most students will return to classes Wednesday, Aug. 16, while high school upperclassmen go back Thursday, Aug. 17.
Superintendent Steve Barrett said putting Chromebook laptops in the hands of almost every student makes the 2017-18 academic year especially exciting.
"We're excited about our one-to-one technology initiative," Barrett said.
Students in grades K-1 will have classroom sets of 10 Chromebooks; grades 2-5 will be one-to-one with Chromebooks, with the devices stored and charged in their classrooms.
Each student in grades 6-12 will have a Chromebook they will take home with them.
"Today (Aug. 7) we issued Chromebooks to high school seniors," Barrett said. "The kids seemed very excited about it, and they're eager to use them and have a different classroom experience."
The district is using Google Classroom so students can collaborate, do research, write papers and have storage for all their assignments, as well as easily share documents with teachers and peers.
"We're excited to see how this works," Barrett said. "We grew that organically over time."
Jeff Collett, the district's technology director, said 6,700 Chromebooks are being issued to students.
He said the device per student ratio evolved thanks to the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation providing grant funds to teachers for technology during the past several years.
"This is really teacher-led," Collett said. The teachers saw the value in the Chromebooks and sought them through the education foundation."
Barrett said he's also excited about the opening of a new preschool program that serves children with disabilities. It provides an educational opportunity for typical developing children to serve as social and academic peer models at Clark Hall, 380 Granville St.
"We just put the finishing touches on it the last few days," he said. "We're excited to see the kids come in as school begins."
Barrett said the district also recently launched a redesigned website.
"We had a soft opening a week ago," he said. "We tried to organize information so parents could easily find forms and dates."
The district's address remains gahannaschools.org.
Barrett said students are still enrolling, but as of Aug. 7 the district had 7,501 registered students.
In addition, he said, the district hired 32 new licensed teachers and administrators, and 20 support staff members.
Earlier in the year, Barrett said, $1.3 million in reductions were made.
"Some were retirees, resignations and we didn't add any new positions," he said. "With (assistant superintendent) Scott (Schmidt) leaving, we shifted."
Curriculum director Jill Elliott was moved into the assistant superintendent position.
Last year's dean of high school curriculum, Tia Holliman, has moved into the curriculum director's role.
Public information officer Mallory Sribanditmongkol's position was reduced from full time to part time.
She resigned from the district July 28 to take a new communications position with Licking Heights Local Schools.
Barrett said the district is working to fill that post.
"We made sure to cover the roles and responsibilities we needed in central office," he said. "With administrative roles we reduced, we made sure they had a place to go as teachers."
Lincoln High School
Bobby Dodd, principal at Gahanna Lincoln High School, said he expects to welcome about 2,392 students.
Those students will be joined by six new high staff members, including Caroline Federici and Jordan Kessler, intervention specialists; Andrew Roach and Jordan Truitt, science teachers; Jessica Slocum, assistant principal; and Rachel Tyran, art teacher.
"The staff at GLHS is excited for the 2017-18 school year," Dodd said. "In addition to the array of classes and programs we already offer our students, this year we are pleased to announce we have new classes in entrepreneurship and coding."
Dodd said the high school is collaborating with Central Ohio Junior Achievement, Addecco and the city of Gahanna to increase the number of career speakers, volunteer opportunities, job-shadowing experiences and internships for all high school students.
"We are continuing to work with GJPS facilities director Scott Lofton for facility improvements, such as our updated attendance office and classrooms," Dodd said. "We are also partnering with Lifetouch, Varsity Brands, Waterboy Graphics and our own FabLab to increase Gahanna Lincoln branding and signage around the school, including classrooms, the gymnasium and athletic/club fields."
He said the high school also is adding a Maker Space in the Media Center to go along with the engineering and hands-on opportunities students have in the FabLab.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation's Gahanna Gala, Dodd said, the high school's music technology class has more than $15,000 in new equipment for students to create, edit and produce their own music.