Bexley City Schools officials are looking to expand the district's gifted program to include more students whom they say are not being serviced.

Bexley City Schools officials are looking to expand the district's gifted program to include more students whom they say are not being serviced.

But the plan, presented to school board members last week, is meeting some resistance.

Laura Lipsett, the district's executive director of school programs, along with Marnie Morrison of the Gifted Consultant Educational Service Center Central Ohio, presented the changes to board members at their regular monthly board meeting.

Lipsett said the plan builds on a two-year study completed in May 2014 that gathered input locally from parents and teachers, along with data from national studies and a visit to at least one other local school district.

"It's been a very interesting and complicated year for us," said Morrison.

She said Ohio's approach to gifted education is unique in that gifted identification is required by law, but services and support are not.

"It's very confusing," Morrison told parents in educational sessions earlier this year.

It also has made for a varied foundation on which to building programming, she said.

Identification is made in four different areas, she said. Cognitive ability, academic talent, creative thinking and visual-performing arts are the areas targeted by gifted programming. Teachers, parents and staffers can refer; students can self-refer.

The purpose of the new program is to ensure that all gifted students receive "appropriately differentiated curriculum instruction," said Morrison and Lipsett in their presentation.

According to numbers given to board members, as it stands now, only 20 to 24 percent of those elementary students with a gifted identification are being serviced, with 100 percent serviced at the middle school and high school levels.

The proposal is to "build capacity of classroom teachers to differentiate for all gifted students by shifting the (gifted intervention specialist's) role to support classroom teachers and providing enrichment services as needed that evolve out of classroom instruction," said Lipsett and Morrison in their presentation.

In other words, most of the gifted instruction would be provided by the elementary classroom teacher, with shorter pull-out sessions targeting particular areas of gifted instruction as a supplement.

While both Morrison and Lipsett indicated the program's aim is to provide the more-inclusive programming without increasing staffing levels, Superintendent Mike Johnson said he felt it was too early to determine just what staffing levels would look like under the new program.

Bexley parents Anna Ramsden and Sue Deltaan addressed the board, each saying they are concerned about the proposed program changes.

"I fear that this will dismantle a program that everyone agrees is excellent and replace it with a more-diluted approach," said Ramsden.

Both wondered how teachers will be prepared in time to make the changes in the fall.

The plan did not require formal approval by the board. A letter went out last week explaining the changes to parents, with a parent meeting scheduled Thursday, May 21, to answer questions.

While the plan is labeled as "proposed," it appears that it is set for implementation.

Beginning in the fall, the plan is to provide intense focus on language-arts classroom consultation with added pull-out enrichment services for fourth- and fifth-graders. Sixth-graders will continue direct pull-out services for gifted students next year, and grades K-3 will begin math classroom consultation.