Managing growth and addressing the needs of a diversified student body will be top aims of Upper Arlington schools as administrators and staff members seek to move the district forward.
During the Feb. 5 State of the Schools address at Upper Arlington High School, Superintendent Paul Imhoff lauded the community for its support last November in passing Issue 43.
It included a 3.75-mill levy that will generate approximately $6.3 million annually for day-to-day expenses and a 5.17-mill bond issue that will bring in approximately $230 million over 38 years and will be the catalyst for rebuilding Upper High School and its athletics facilities, plus reconstruction or renovation at the district's five elementary buildings.
The district currently is soliciting community input for design upgrades to the buildings, which average more than 63 years old.
Imhoff said the work is vital to addressing enrollment projections that show classes increasing in size at every level -- some by more than 100 students -- by 2027-28.
"We are growing, we are growing quickly," Imhoff said. "We are one of the top 10 fastest-growing school districts in the state of Ohio.
"As we look at the design and the construction of our new buildings, we are working hard to make sure we have enough space to educate all of our students. That is the biggest challenge."
In addition, Imhoff said the staff is increasing in response to the enrollment growth. Last summer, he said, 12 new teaching positions were added "just due to growth." This summer, the plan is to hire at least 10 additional teachers.
"So over two summers, over 22 new teachers just to deal with growth," he said.
As the district seeks to "right-size" buildings and staff, Imhoff said a new initiative will focus on addressing the educational needs of every student, including those from diverse backgrounds or who have special needs.
"In UA, all has to mean all," he said. "We are a public school district where we want to celebrate and welcome each and every student.
"This is a very intentional focus for us this year and moving on."
Imhoff said the district has worked with state education groups to develop a cultural competency program and will continue to develop it every year.
While those initiatives are being developed, Andrew Geistfeld, CEO and treasurer, said officials have worked hard to show Standard & Poor's Financial Services and Moody's Investors Service that the district continues to invest and manage its finances well, even as its debt ratio rises because of the Issue 43 bond issue.
"As these two agencies ... looked at our information, they said, 'Yes, your debt ratio is going up, but the two strong items you have in place in the district is your community support. Over the decades, your community has supported you.'
"The second area they focused on was our strong financial balances and practices," Geistfeld said. "They said those key areas help overset then the debt issuance we are doing."
He said UA schools were able to maintain a AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's, as well as a AA1 rating from Moody's -- "one of just a handful of districts from across the state" to do so.