Upper Arlington Schools plan to continue work toward a bond issue that would fund sweeping construction to local school buildings in 2017, and continue integration of technology into classrooms.

Upper Arlington Schools plan to continue work toward a bond issue that would fund sweeping construction to local school buildings in 2017, and continue integration of technology into classrooms.

While UA Schools officials note that finalizing ballot language for a bond issue isn't the only priority for 2017, it's among the district's top objectives. The bond issue would be designed to fund part of the up to $309 million in reconstruction and renovation work the district and community have identified as being needed.

"Our backs are really up against the wall," said UA Schools Superintendent Paul Imhoff.

"Good maintenance has extended the life of our school buildings, but assessments have shown we will need approximately $188 million in repairs to keep the buildings up and running into the future.

"Creating a master plan in cooperation with our community allows us to make sure facilities dollars are spent wisely -- not just in the fix-it-as-it-breaks approach that can often be the most expensive way to go with commercial buildings."

In December, the UA school board unanimously approved a facilities master plan recommended by Imhoff and his staff that calls for rebuilding three of the five elementary schools: Greensview ($22.6 million), Wickliffe ($23.8 million) and Windermere ($22.2 million). Two others, Tremont ($14.9 million) and Barrington ($31 million), would be renovated.

Under that plan, Hastings Middle School ($27.7 million) and Jones Middle School ($18.2 million), and the Burbank Early Childhood School ($7.3 million) would undergo repairs and gain space for additional students.

The district also continues to collect public input on two four-story options for Upper Arlington High School. One would cost $137 million and the other $142 million.

A group of community volunteers with experience in financial management or managing businesses will be formed to serve as a Financial Advisory Board for the district.

The advisory board will be asked to help determine what master plan projects should begin within the next few years. That information will be used by school administrators and the school board to determine how big of a bond issue they should ask local voters to support in November.

"We will spend the next six months working with our community to examine the phasing, funding and scope of the master plan," Imhoff said. "We'll have a team of community members with significant experience in facilities and construction projects dig into all of these issues, as well as the district's operating needs. We will share the team's findings with our community and gather feedback through meetings and surveys.

"Our treasurer-CFO, Andrew Geistfeld, will use all of this community input to craft a recommendation for the board regarding a November 2017 ballot issue."

Aside from planning facilities, 2017 promises to be another year in which UA Schools continue to integrate technology into classrooms to enhance the delivery of education and to better prepare students for college and careers.

In December 2015, the district launched a "One-to-One" technology initiative to provide all of the roughly 3,200 students in the middle schools and at Upper Arlington High School with MacBook Air computers in an effort to enhance more personalized education and to maximize time and resources to support individual student success. At the outset of the 2016-17 school year, the program was extended to K-5 students.

Imhoff said now that the devices are being used in classrooms and for homework, they're opening new doors to student learning, personalized instruction and teacher collaboration.

Throughout 2017, he added, the district and its teachers will continue to experiment with and refine the use of the devices and other technologies to further enhance academic programming.

"One of our elementary teachers recently described the devices as 'an equalizer and an accelerator,' " Imhoff said. "They are tools that allow our teachers to further personalize instruction for each student's specific strengths and areas of need.

"We are at the beginning of our journey of implementing technology into the classroom in a truly meaningful way, and already our teachers are making great strides. As we head into 2017, we will continue to support our teachers working together to share best practices and explore new ways the devices can support personalization."

More generally, Imhoff said the district will remain committed to its standing strategic plan, and he encouraged community members to review them at uaschools.org/strategicplan.

"Our priorities are the goals outlined in our strategic plan: performance, personalization, accountability, efficiency and ownership," he said.

"Each spring we report to the board of education and our community regarding our progress with implementation."

nelllis@thisweeknews.com

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