The Grandview Heights City School District will open the school year Wednesday, Aug. 15, as a ballot measure that will determine the future of its facilities awaits on the November ballot.

But what happens inside the buildings, not just the buildings themselves, remains a priority, Superintendent Andy Culp said.

"Nov. 6 is going to be an important day for our district without a doubt, but it doesn't distract from our overall mission," Culp said.

Voters will be asked to approve a ballot measure that will include 7.51 mills for a facilities project and 1 mill for operating revenue.

"The most important objective for the new school year is to continue our mission of maximizing and personalizing every student's learning," Culp said. "That's the reason we exist."

One way the district is fulfilling that mission is by expanding its 1:1 initiative to every grade level this school year, Culp said.

The initiative aims to provide every student access to a device -- either a tablet or laptop computer.

"In our effort to provide authentic and personalized instruction for our students, the expansion of the 1:1 program to a K-12 initiative is one of the most important elements," Culp said. "We've expanded the 1:1 program every year since I've been here."

Kindergarten and first-grade students will have an iPad; students in other grade levels are assigned a Chromebook for use in class and at home, Culp said.

"We view technology as a tool we can use to personalize and maximize each student's learning," he said. "In some instances, it could be the best tool for students to demonstrate their knowledge, their research and collaboration with other students."

Access to the iPads and Chromebooks enables students to immerse themselves into subject material in a more personal and individualized way, Culp said.

Expanding the 1:1 initiative to kindergarten will allow students to develop fluency in technology that will benefit their learning and their success in and beyond school, Chief Academic Officer Jamie Lusher said.

"Putting these devices in the hands of our students gives our teachers more flexibility in the way they can teach," she said. "They can make use of video and audio as part of their classroom activities."

The 1:1 initiative is primarily funded through the district's permanent-improvement levy, he said. The levy provides $550,000 each year, about half of which is earmarked for technology.

The district will welcome a smaller number of new employees this year than in the past few years, Culp said.

The new hires include Robert Brown as Grandview Heights High School principal. Brown replaces Ken Chaffin, who left to take a position in Marysville, his home district.

Brown previously served as assistant principal at McCord Middle School in Worthington.

Kyle Mahan will be the district's new food-service director, and Matt Mowry is on board as the systems administrator.

Mahan previously served as food-service director in the Xenia and Hilliard school districts.

"He was actually employed by Aramark because those districts outsourced their food-service programs," Culp said. "Kyle is working as a district employee for us. We run our food-service program in-house."

Eleven new staff members had been hired when intervention specialist Brandon Theiss died July 26.

"For our staff, students and parents, the loss of Brandon is devastating," Culp said. "His light will shine brightly in Grandview for years to come. He had that kind of impact on people, especially the students he taught."

The practical need now is to fill his position, he said.

"Obviously, with school starting on Aug. 15, it puts us in a tight timeline," Culp said. "We may look at doing an internal transfer to fill his position directly and have a new hire go somewhere else."

The position has been posted and Culp said he would like to have a recommendation ready for the board at its August meeting. The meeting had been scheduled for Aug. 8 but was postponed because three board members could not attend. A new date had not yet been announced as of Aug. 6.

Although the Nov. 6 ballot measure might not be the primary focus as the new school year opens, it is vital to the district's future, Culp said.

"We've made an effort all through the facilities process to engage the community and be transparent about the tremendous value the schools are for the community," Culp said. "With more than 3,600 touch points with community members, we think we have a plan that reflects what our residents will support and that addresses the needs of our aging school buildings."

The $55.2 million facilities plan would include construction of a new grade 4-8 building on the current site of Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School; substantial improvements to Grandview Heights High School; and construction of a connector built between the high school and the new 4-8 building. Improvements to Stevenson Elementary School would be limited to safety and security and ADA compliance. Enhanced safety and security elements also would be implemented at the other school buildings.

The leaders of a campaign committee will be announced soon, Culp said.

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