Summer break for Reynoldsburg students is winding down as teachers and administrators prepare for the first day back to school Aug. 16.

The district has planned a staggered start for classes again this year, with elementary students whose last names begin with A-L going to school Aug. 16, then staying home the next day. Students with last names beginning with M-Z attend Aug. 17.

Middle schools have a similar staggered start, with fifth and seventh grades attending Aug. 16 and sixth and eighth grades attending Aug. 17.

Parents should check the school website at www.reyn.org for more detailed information on each school's first day.

It's freshmen only Aug. 16 at both the Reynoldsburg High School Livingston and Summit Road campuses, according to director of communications Valerie Wunder.

"We do this so the students can have a positive experience their first day of school in a smaller setting, so they feel comfortable and get to know adults as well as students in their academy," she said. "Because the high school buildings are also physically larger (than the school they attended last year), we don't want them to feel overwhelmed."

She said students would rotate through their schedules, meet teachers and learn how to access their lockers. They also will move through a series of activities designed around the theme of their academy.

"For example, the (HS)2 STEM and eSTEM activities will have design challenges; BELL will have a leadership activity and Encore will have an arts activity," Wunder said.

All students will be in class Monday, Aug. 20.

Superintendent Melvin Brown said the district will focus on a number of important goals this school year.

"We are going to focus on accessibility and equity for increasing our advanced placement culture as well as the K-12 pathway articulation," he said. "So students in elementary and middle school will have varied experiences that mimic those that they may receive in the academy structure, so kids can see what the academies offer before they attend high school."

Board of education President Joe Begeny said administrators worked hard through the summer.

"Our administrators have been working hard to get some important grants and to prepare for the new school year," he said. "It is going to be a great school year in Reynoldsburg."

Grants awarded

The district received three grants this summer, including a $1.1 million Striving Readers grant from the Ohio Department of Education.

Brown said it will allow the district to take an approach to literacy "that takes into account equity, access and need."

He said the district will expand its instructional coaching teams and add additional teaching coaches in reading and math.

"It is our intention to get coaches into classrooms with teachers on a more regular basis to provide hands-on support in addition to assist with instructional planning and curriculum development," he said.

A $20,000 grant from Battelle is being used to build a greenhouse and outside growing center at the RHS Livingston campus. The grant also will allow the expansion of learning opportunities for the Slow Food Group, where students learn about growing vegetables and cooking nutritious meals.

"I liked that grant the most," Begeny said. "I met some of those students at the spring health fair. It's really nice to see hard work rewarded."

A third grant, Expanding Opportunities for Each Child, gives the district $350,000 this school year to work on increasing enrollment for low-income students to participate in advanced coursework and career pathways.

Brown said administrators also recently completed the first phase of a new strategic plan.

"We will soon be surveying our entire school community for input to finalize our mission and vision statements," he said.

After that's done, goals will be created around four key areas: student learning, student experience, communication and finance, Brown said.

New administrators this year are Kimberly Halley, assistant superintendent; Tonya Bailey, Encore Academy principal, replacing Garry Young; Garla Brown, BELL Academy principal, replacing Kim Cox; Toby Fischer, principal for STEM Middle at Baldwin Road, replacing interim principal Amy Gengo and Christopher Menhorn, principal at Summit Road Elementary School, replacing Melissa Drury.

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