The building of the new Lincoln Elementary School, working on the district's Master Facilities Plan and a mental-health initiative are priorities for the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools this year.

"Our top priority is to begin building of the new Lincoln Elementary," said Steve Barrett, district superintendent. "It will replace the old Lincoln, which is on Havens Corners. The new Lincoln will be on Helmbright Road. We're anxious to get started in February. We'll have our groundbreaking ceremony before that."

District voters approved a 1.22-mill, 30-year bond issue and a 4.28-mill continuing (permanent) operating levy, for a total of 5.5 mills, in May 2018.

The bond is financing the new elementary school as well as the cost of furniture replacement and the renovation of restrooms, media centers and classrooms in grade K-8 buildings.

Barrett said another district priority is to finish the renovations in K-8 buildings that are included in Phase 1 of the Masters Facilities Plan, in addition to community engagement to create a workable solution for addressing needs at Lincoln High School.

"We're excited to begin that (renovation work) again in the summer," Barrett said. "And the other thing we're going to be doing in the beginning of 2020 is having community conversations around Phase 2 of our Masters Facilities Plan, in particular a solution for our high school."

He said discussions with the public would include whether to renovate the high school, build a new high school or build a second high school.

"We're going to be having conversations around that at the end of January," Barrett said.

The public is invited to share suggestions at one of three meetings to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 21, 9 to 11 a.m. Jan. 23 and 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 30. All meetings will be held at Clark Hall, 380 Granville St.

In addition to the renovation or replacement of Lincoln High School, Phase 2 of the facilities plan includes additions to High Point and Blacklick elementary schools, classroom additions to the three middle schools and auditorium additions to Middle School East and Middle School South.

In February, Barrett said, meetings will begin regarding a strategic plan.

"We have a lot of things we plan," he said. "We have a curriculum plan, we have the makings of a capital plan, we have fiscal beliefs."

Barrett said the district is also making plans in connection with technology.

"We want to bring a team of people together and survey the survey in a wide sense," he said. "And bring folks together to build a strategic plan with goals that are based on what we think our students need in the 21st century," he said. "So, we're excited to get started with those three things."

Barrett said another initiative he's excited about is the district's mental-health initiative.

"We hired new counselors, a counselor for each of our elementary schools," he said. "We have extra mental-health specialists. We're doing a lot of training around mental health. It's really important for us that kids feel socially and emotionally connected. Because we know that's inextricably linked with learning."

Barrett said the district is going to have a three-part series on the things the schools are doing with mental health.

"Just recently we had a meeting -- about 30 parents showed up -- for signs of suicide," he said.

"So, we're looking at all aspects of mental health. We're excited to keep that growing and communicating with parents and kids around mental health needs."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla