For South-Western City Schools, 2016 will bring something the district leaders have been building up to for several years.

For South-Western City Schools, 2016 will bring something the district leaders have been building up to for several years.

The third and final phase of the district's Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project that began three years ago is expected to be completed before the start of next school year.

"We're ahead of schedule on phase 3 and we'll be holding dedication ceremonies at the new school buildings ahead of the new school year," Superintendent Bill Wise said.

The ceremonies will be held at the new Highland Park, Prairie Lincoln, Richard Avenue and West Franklin elementary schools.

A ceremony also will be scheduled to officially open Bolton Crossing Elementary School. The building was completed as part of the second phase of the project but is being used this school year for Highland Park students while their new building is constructed.

Franklin Heights High School also will hold a dedication ceremony later this year. Classes are being held in the new high school as the final components of the building were completed over the first several months of the school year.

"What this project does is bring the equality in facilities we want for all of our students across the district," school board President Randy Reisling said. "This project touches every part of our district so that every single elementary school family gets something out of it. That includes the two elementary schools that have been renovated (to match the new buildings' features) and to fix issues that needed addressing."

The district also is continuing to move forward with an initiative to expand the technology available to students, Wise said.

"We now have more than 14,000 Chromebooks in our schools, allowing us to have a one-device-for-every-two-students ratio in the elementary schools and almost 1:1 in grades 7-12," he said. "This is a significant step forward for us to accelerate the learning for our students."

In addition, both juniors and seniors will attend the Accelerated Learning Center when the 2016-17 school year begins in August, Wise said.

The second year of the two-year program will begin for seniors who are participating in the first portion of the program as juniors, he said.

The ALC provides an opportunity for students to take and earn credits for college courses while completing their high school requirements.

"We're continuing this year to look at how we can expand ways for our students to earn college credits," Wise said.

That will include plans to offer more programs at the career academy, including courses in health-information management and expanding the pre-engineering and interactive media design curriculum, he said.

In 2016, district leaders also will look to expand on partnerships, Wise said, including Project Search, in which developmentally disabled students spend their senior year working on internships at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, and collaborations with Ohio State University.

One program with Ohio State provides summer reading-loss prevention services for young students.

A federally funded research grant would be used to develop strategies to enhance the effectiveness of literacy programs for at-risk students, Wise said.

Changes in state testing also should help, he said.

The state used PARCC, an acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, last year for the reading and math tests and AIR, the American Institutes of Research, tests for social studies and science.

Ohio leaders already have decided to drop the PARCC tests and will use AIR for all four assessment areas.

"We're hopeful we'll see state testing settle itself in and get to a consistent pattern," he said, so the results are more meaningful and usable for school districts.

Financially, the district opens 2016 "in a sound position," Treasurer Hugh Garside said.

"We have a six-month cash balance and we're finishing up the construction project, which is a good place to be," he said.

The district has no need for a levy this year or in the near future, Garside said.

The most recent five-year forecast projects the district will be able to maintain a positive cash balance through fiscal year 2020, he said.