Leaders look forward to Berlin High School's opening

The final touches are being put on Olentangy's fourth high school in anticipation of the 2018-19 school year.

In August, Olentangy Berlin High School will open its doors to students in grades 9-11.

A grand-opening celebration is planned Aug. 5 at the school, 3140 Berlin Station Road in Delaware, said Todd Spinner, Berlin principal.

Spinner came to Olentangy after serving as principal at Westerville Central High School for the last 10 years.

His daughter, Emma, is a 2017 graduate of Olentangy High School; his son, Johnny, will be a junior at Berlin.

The school will open without a senior class and have average of about 300 students per grade level, Spinner said.

Most Berlin students, including Spinner's son, were reassigned from Olentangy High School as part of a 2017 redistricting.

"We won't have a graduation that first year, but it'll give us an opportunity for our juniors to lead for two years," Spinner said. "These students are getting to do something that very few students get to do."

The school's student leadership is nearly a blank slate, with aspects such as student councils that need to be set up. Some of the work is complete -- the yearbook staff and a few dozen student ambassadors have been named -- but much of it remains to be decided by the class of 2020 and beyond, Spinner said.

"We have the One Bear Team, a committee of parents, teachers and students, and we've already met four times. We're letting them drive what that culture will look like," Spinner said. "The opportunities are unreal. They get an education in a brand-new facility. These students are going to be able to create the template."

Each of the 60-plus staff members received a brick from the school, "to signify that we're building that foundation," Spinner said.

"I always would say that I was principal and led the building as if my own son or daughter attended, and now I'm able to do it. I want the best of everything for all of our kids," he said. "There's got to be a positive culture and climate. Not every student wakes up saying, 'Yes! I get to go to school today.' But if they're able to attend a building where generally everyone gets along and is there for the right reasons -- it's inclusive, it's structured and it's positive -- then we can't lose."

Athletic teams for the schools' 28 varsity sports will be set up in much the same way, starting "from scratch," said John Betz, Berlin's athletics director.

"We're not walking in with set teams, so it's not going to look like the three other schools at first," Betz said. "I refer to it as the land of opportunity. I encourage students to get involved."

The 307,000-square-foot high school's floor plan is similar to that of Liberty and Orange high schools.

Among the changes to those plans, a room above the library was split into two areas, allowing for small performances or assemblies.

"We call it 'the Overlook' because it overlooks the library," Spinner said. "It's a beautiful space and I'd say it's one of my favorite parts of the new building."

After 14 months of hiring staff members and preparing for students, the real work of education is about to begin.

"I'm looking forward most to getting back with our students. I've missed the hallways, going to the athletic events, the lunchroom -- all of it," Betz said. "I can't wait for Aug. 15."