Even as they prepare to open a new and larger high school, Groveport Madison district officials will be tackling overcrowding issues and changes in the way graduation rates are reported in 2018.

Construction on the multimillion dollar high school started more than a year ago and is expected to be finished in May, with demolition of the existing high school to start in June.

In the meantime, according to a construction update from Jeff Warner, district communications director, crews are completing the rough grading of areas close to the building, which has allowed the installation of some sidewalks and portions of the south parking lot.

The last major project left to finish in the athletics wing is the installation of the gym floors.

Catwalks have been installed in the auditorium, "giving those brave enough to venture onto them a commanding view of the stage and seating areas," Warner said.

Work is progressing on the three academic wings as well. Each two-story wing will include labs, classrooms and an extended learning area at the end of each hallway.

"The media center, band room, choir room and art labs also are well underway." Warner said.

Growing enrollment

Superintendent Bruce Hoover said as more families move into the area, enrollment throughout the district is steadily increasing.

"While we are pleased that parents find the area to be desirable and they have confidence in our ability to provide their children with a high-quality education, nearly all of our schools are over capacity," Hoover said. "We have converted storage rooms, libraries and hallways into classrooms and we have leased multiple modular classroom buildings.

"There is only so much that we can do to accommodate our growing enrollment in our current buildings," he said.

In 2018, the district will continue to monitor enrollment and determine if it may be necessary "to tweak attendance boundaries to balance enrollment between schools," Hoover said.

"We also are working with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to create a new facilities master plan and we have contracted with Hanover Research to look at the best practices with respect to planning for future facilities that will best meet our students' and their families' needs."

Graduation rates

Another challenge the district faces in 2018 is communicating the legislative changes in the way the graduation rates are reported by the state.

"Between Ohio's new graduation requirements and federal changes in how graduation is calculated for students with disabilities, our graduation rate is expected to significantly drop next year," Hoover said. "While this will be a statewide issue, we know that some in the community may ... believe our students are suddenly doing poorly. That is not the case; the district's student achievement has never been higher than it is today." The superintendent said the district will be working with high school students and their parents so they understand what students need to do to graduate.

"We have even developed individualized education plans -- and even instituted student-parent contracts in order to ensure that students are completing the necessary work in order to meet Ohio's graduation requirements," he said.

The district is also looking at new ways to encourage parents to play an even bigger role next year in the education of their children.

"The research is clear: Students who have engaged and supportive parents tend to do better in school than students who do not have this critical support," Hoover said.

The district also plans to work more closely with state legislators to make them more aware of the social and emotional needs of students.

"Every community is different and the needs of students vary from community to community," Hoover said. "We want our legislators to understand how students' nonacademic barriers - poverty, hunger, lack of health care, etc. - impacts a student's ability to be a successful learner."

Overall, he said increasing student achievement is the district's primary objective in 2018.

"We believe that as a result of the hard work of our teachers are doing, the implementation of our 1:1 computer initiative, Cruisers with Chromebooks, and approaching our work in a more strategic manner, we will see continued growth in student achievement," Hoover said.