The year ahead for Columbus City Schools will be a monumental one, according to the district's top official.
For starters, the district is staring at a projected $100 million shortfall each of the next two years from the state, which changed its funding-cap formula, leaving CCS -- and other districts -- at a disadvantage, said John Stanford, interim superintendent.
"It's too early for us to tell right now" how it's going to affect the district, he said. "We're going through that process as we speak."
The Columbus school board will have some semblance of the overall financial picture in April before it votes on the budget in June, Stanford said.
The next year also will see a major transition when the board will select a replacement for superintendent Dan Good, who retired Dec. 31.
Stanford, 55, an assistant superintendent in the district, is one of 19 people from throughout the United States who applied to succeed Good. A replacement is expected to be named by early February.
"It really is a time of transition," Stanford said. "We have had tremendous success under Dr. Good.
"One of the things I want to make sure during this interim period is we continue the momentum he has created."
Stanford said the district will take an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to the third-grade reading test, passage of which is mandatory for students who want to advance to the fourth grade.
Students will continue to be encouraged to read on school buses, and elementary schools have carved out 90 minutes of the day for reading and another 30 minutes for intervention for those who need it, Stanford said.
Meanwhile, reading "buddies" also visit individual schools to help youngsters with their assignments.
So far, 61.5 percent of CCS third-graders have met or exceeded requirements on the state-mandated test -- 7 percentage points ahead of where the district was the same time last year, Stanford said.
District officials also will continue to try to hold down the number of expulsions. Between 2016-17, expulsion hearings at the high school level were down 29 percent and down 34 percent districtwide, Stanford said.
He said he remains behind the PBIS program -- positive behavior intervention and support -- a model that tries to use preventive measures to address discipline and social problems and learning needs.
"This is much more of a prevention-type model," he said, "and we've already seen some good success with the model."
For the second consecutive year, the district will hold "relationship week," a recognition of stronger community bonds within the school community and outside.
The event, to be held Feb. 5-9, will include activities such as special lunch invitations so students don't eat alone, and bringing in community partners who can offer support to students and families, said Scott Varner, district spokesman.
School board President Gary Baker II said the district will continue to make progress on spending money raised from Issue 57, an operating levy and bond issue passed in 2016.
It provides $125 million for school maintenance and $50 million for new teachers and staff.
"There's a lot going on," Baker said. "I'm very excited about finishing the school year out strong.
"I think it's going to be another great year for Columbus City Schools."