Hundreds of Reynoldsburg eighth-graders traveled to Washington, D.C., last week on an annual trip that has been described as a rite of passage.

CORRECTION: April Darling is president of the Waggoner Road Junior High PTO. Because of a reporter's error, she was incorrectly identified in a print and earlier online version of this story.

Hundreds of Reynoldsburg eighth-graders traveled to Washington, D.C., last week on an annual trip that has been described as a rite of passage.

Hundreds more were unable to make the trip -- but thanks to the combined efforts of officials from the city, Truro Township and the schools, they were able to take a local field trip to learn how their city government works and what various city and township departments do.

In all, 287 students from Hannah Ashton Middle School and Waggoner Road and Baldwin Road junior highs left May 8 for a three-day trip, district spokeswoman Valerie Wunder said.

Parents paid $620 per child for the trip, which includes visits to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the nation's capital, plus tours of monuments and museums, including George Washington's Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery and a dinner/dance cruise on the Potomac River.

Almost as many students -- 271 -- did not make the trip, Wunder said.

Those students got a behind-the-scenes look at running a city.

"We thought if they can't see the national government in action, we can show them how their local government works," said Andrew Bowsher, Reynoldsburg's development director.

Students spent a day at the City Hall complex, 7232 E. Main St., participating in a kickball game, planning a "mock" city project with Reynoldsburg's parks and recreation and development departments, learning about CPR from Truro Township firefighters, getting a look at police and fire equipment and touring the city's new community center, currently under construction on Davidson Drive.

The eighth-graders also held a mock city council meeting and had lunch with Mayor Brad McCloud and Truro Township Trustee Pat Mahaffey.

Waggoner Road PTO president April Darling helped organize donations from Reynoldsburg restaurants so students could have a special meal.

"I just wanted to make sure they had a great time. Even though they didn't go on the trip, they still deserved to have an important experience," Darling said. "As a parent, I really like this alternative -- they are at school doing something just as meaningful as the kids who went to D.C."

The class of 2023 will start high school together in August for the inaugural year of Reynoldsburg's new 9X Impact freshman-year experience. Instead of choosing one of four high school academies at the end of eighth grade, the students will spend freshman year together on the second floor of the Livingston Avenue high school, 6699 E. Livingston Ave.

The incoming class will be divided into five groups for team-based learning.

Freshmen will now have an entire year to decide on an academy focus for the remaining three years of high school: (HS)2, a STEM-based approached to health and human services; BELL, a college-prep course focusing on business, education, leadership and law; e-STEM, science, technology, engineering and math-based learning; or Encore, focusing on performing and visual arts.

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