Dominion Middle School students have begun their final semester in the current building, but they're looking forward to a future a little farther south -- and with a little more elbow room.
The school will move from its longtime location at 330 Dominion Blvd. to the former North High School, 100 Arcadia Ave., for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
A steering committee that has been working to facilitate the move will hold a community information meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 in the auditorium of the current school building.
The evening will include an update on the renovations being completed at the Arcadia Avenue facility to prepare for next school year; an introduction of some of the school's community partners that either are serving on the steering committee or working with school staff on developing future programming for Dominion students; and a Q&A session, said Michelle Christopher, steering committee member and a Dominion Family Ambassador.
A Family Ambassador is a parent who serves as a liaison between other parents and Dominion staff, she said.
Columbus City Schools leaders announced the plan to move Dominion in February 2019, part of a larger scheme to reorganize and repurpose a handful of facilities in the district.
The steering committee at Dominion came together in June, consisting of parents, students, teachers and other school staff, district officials, alumni organization the North High School Polar Bear Club and representatives of community organizations.
The purpose, Dominion principal Dottie Flanagan said, is to make sure the transition was handled as openly and as efficiently as possible.
"It was started in an attempt to be transparent and to engage the community around the many, many facets of the move," Flanagan said.
A primary reason for the move is to address crowding issues at Dominion.
The school building on Arcadia is large enough to affect programs that lack space at Dominion and to keep the current elementary school feeder pathway intact -- both concerns that have been voiced by parents.
For example, Flanagan said, the school was awarded a grant from Clintonville Go Public to purchase items to create a makerspace at the school -- video-production equipment, sewing machines and a 3D printer -- but it's been housed in the Dominion library, which also occasionally is used as a classroom.
The move will allow the makerspace, as well as a life-skills lab and some STEAM-related programs, to have their own spaces, Flanagan said.
"Right now, the building is just so full," said Christopher, who has a son, Carson, in seventh grade at Dominion and another in fourth grade. "I just think having the space to do the things our students want and need is why there's so much excitement for the move."
Flanagan said she is pursuing new partnerships with Ohio State University, which will be much closer to Dominion at its new location.
Keeping pathway schools together at the new Dominion building was especially important to steering committee member Laura Kogan, whose seventh-grade son, Ja'Mez, also is on the committee. The Kogans live in Weinland Park, an area facing reassignment without the move to the larger school building.
"(Dominion is) in Clintonville, and a lot of people think of it as a Clintonville school, but there are students from Weinland Park and from Linden and Northland at Dominion. To have access to the school that's historically been their neighborhood school was important," Kogan said.
In addition to facilities and programs, transportation and other logistical issues are being addressed through the committee. Since the building on Arcadia is closer to the demographic center of the school's attendance area, Flanagan said, the district hopes to save on transportation.
Concerns linger among some families whose students currently walk to school at Dominion and among those who plan to walk to the Arcadia Avenue school, Flanagan said, but the district and committee continue to iron out those issues.
"That's another one of the reasons for the committee: to hear those things and bring them back to the district staff so those concerns are represented," Christopher said.
But some of the topics on its agendas have been, perhaps, less obvious.
"North High School has such a storied history," said Tasha Weaver, a Dominion alumna whose son is in sixth grade at the school. "It's been valuable and exciting to connect with the (North High School alumni organization) through the process.
"In many ways," she said, "Dominion is similar in the way it creates community to what North was."
Flanagan said the committee led the discussion on changing the Dominion mascot from the Blue Devil to the Polar Bear, which was North High School's mascot.
"There's so much history at that school -- there's no way we could move in and not acknowledge it," Flanagan said. "This was a really neat way to honor some of that history."
Christopher said she intends to distribute information for families unable to attend the Feb. 4 meeting.
"Change is hard," Christopher said. "Early on (after the move was announced by the district), there were, of course, lots of questions. I think there was this thought that the (Arcadia) building was even worse off than our current building, and people just didn't know how this was going to work. The idea can be scary and overwhelming.
"But I think as we've come to learn more about the process and about the new building, the benefits outweigh those concerns," she said.
"That limited space has been holding us back," Kogan said. "There are so many benefits to the new building."