New faces and bigger classes will greet Big Walnut Local School District students when lessons begin this week.

New faces and bigger classes will greet Big Walnut Local School District students when lessons begin this week.

Monday, Aug. 17, is the first day of school for grades 1-12. Kindergarten students start Thursday, Aug. 20.

Total enrollment figures haven't been released, but Superintendent Angie Pollock said the student body is growing.

"Our class sizes are way up," she said. "For example, we are used to having about 230 students in our fourth-grade class, and we will have about 300."

Nine additional staff members have been hired to keep the classes as small as possible, she said.

Pollock is experiencing Big Walnut's opening as its superintendent for the first time. She stepped into the job from her assistant superintendent role in May.

Five additional administrators will join the staff for the 2015-16 school year.

"My internal focus will be getting our administrative team to gel and make sure we all have a shared vision, which is to inspire and guide our students to their maximum potential," Pollock said.

She said not only did the district add staff members to compensate for larger class sizes, a number of retirements required further hires.

"There will be a lot of focus on working with our teachers to make sure they have what they need to take our kids to higher levels," Pollock said.

The district, like many others, has spent years working to prepare students to take state-mandated PARCC evaluations.

State leaders have decided to replace the tests, though the new exams haven't yet been revealed. Pollock said that means district staff won't have to spend as much time learning a new set of evaluations this year.

"We can focus on our kids and continue to grow as teachers," she said. "We're not sure what these tests will look like, so we can focus on personalized learning plans for our students."

The middle school will offer more introductory courses that will help students prepare for their focused subjects in high school.

An exploratory world language and STEM technology class will be offered, as well as an additional business and agriculture class.

Fifth-grade students will be able to take band at the intermediate school, instead of waiting until sixth grade.

Technology-based courses at the high school have been overhauled to cut down on redundancy, as students learn more computer skills in middle school, Pollock said.

"We are making changes to our high school technology classes to make sure we're providing new instruction instead of teaching those things they've already learned," she said.

Pollock said her external focus for this school year will be to look at enrollment projections and plan for a 50-percent growth spurt within the next 10 years.

She'll also implement "superintendent coffees," which she hopes community members will host at their homes with 10-15 neighbors.

"I want to have targeted conversations with community members where they can share their challenges and ask me questions," Pollock said. "If anyone is interested in hosting one, they're welcome to contact the central office."

A State of the Schools address will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the middle school, 777 Cheshire Road. The event will feature interactive displays with stations that discuss the four major goals of the district.

"I am very excited about this school year," Pollock said. "I appreciate the community's support and I look forward to working together to inspire and guide our students."