About 3,000 students -- all except kindergartners -- will return to classrooms Wednesday, Aug. 21, at Whitehall City Schools.

Superintendent Brian Hamler said he is looking forward to the start of 2019-20.

"We are excited to begin a new school year as we welcome our new students and staff members into the Ram family," Hamler said.

"Even though there are many new faces joining us this year and new improvements to our facilities, our goals of success we have for our students remain the same," Hamler said. "We have students that are ready and eager to learn, a talented staff and incredibly passionate parents providing that much-needed support at home."

Among the new faces in place this year at Whitehall schools are new assistant principals Maria Boyarko at Whitehall-Yearling High School, Erik Barbon at Rosemore Middle School and Lauren King at Kae Avenue Elementary School.

Immediately prior to her arrival in Whitehall, Boyarko was a professional-development coordinator for South-Western City Schools; Barbon was an ESL coordinator in Pickerington Schools.

King comes to Whitehall schools from the Northridge school district.

King's position is new, said Ty Debevoise, director of communications and marketing for Whitehall schools.

The district's Early Literacy Campus includes Kae Avenue and the C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Center and has a larger student enrollment than Beechwood and Etna Road elementary schools, warranting the new assistant-principal position, Debevoise said.

"Building a Better Tomorrow" is the theme of the year, Hamler said, as district officials begin seeking input to develop a strategic plan.

But the overarching goal never changes "as we strive to increase whole-student growth and academic success through innovative, rigorous and relevant learning experiences offered in personalized and productive learning environments," Hamler said.

In addition to academic achievement, the district "will place a renewed emphasis on student well-being" as we "strive to remove learning barriers that negatively impact some of our student's learning," Hamler said.

These include Hope Squad at Whitehall-Yearling and Rosemore, a peer-to-peer program to identify depression and risk for suicide among students; and the Legacy Project, a mentoring program that seeks to prepare students for success after high school.

A family support center also is planned at Whitehall-Yearling to provide medical or mental-health support to at-risk students.

Students arriving back in classrooms Aug. 21 will enjoy new amenities "as a result of our successful levy" last November, Hamler said.

These include new windows at Whitehall-Yearling's Walter Armes Learning Center, plus new tennis courts and an artificial-turf field and lighting at the football stadium.

Improvements at the C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Center include new windows and doors, HVAC units and roof.

"Later this year, we will begin our new addition to Rosemore Middle School to accommodate a growing student population," Hamler said.

The number of new students enrolling in the district, kindergarten and otherwise, is "kind of moving target" until classes begin, but the district is not anticipating a significant growth in enrollment, Debevoise said.

The expansion at Rosemore Middle School is needed as the school building already is slightly above capacity, Debevoise said.