Board looks at configuration of new Reynoldsburg high school

Two models of how the current and future high schools could be divided were presented to Reynoldsburg Schools board members at their Dec. 16 meeting.

The presentation was part of a comprehensive report given to the board by three core planning teams that are looking into how the district can transition more easily once the new high school and elementary school are built.

The presentation also included two other components:

• A recommendation from the elementary planning team to preserve neighborhood schools but allow at least one school of choice for parents; and

• a recommendation from the STEM K-12 planning team to focus on helping students move into the 21st century as adults by working with community partners, using scientific method in life and creating beauty in the community through art and music.

The creation of the core planning teams is a continuation of the Reynoldsburg Reach initiative in which the public was invited to share their ideas and preferences on proposed scenarios for a new high school and a new elementary school facility.

The 750 participants who attended Reynoldsburg Reach meetings since March expressed a clear preference for a single high school identity and a desire for academic choices, especially at the high school level. Clear majorities also said they would send their children to appropriate schools of choice or magnet schools.

Model A splits high school students by grade level, placing 9th- and 10th-grade students in the old high school building and the 11th- and 12th-grade students in the new building.

The underclassmen would be in what is called a "house" school in which they would build an educational foundation and decide what area of specialization they hope to achieve as an upperclassman, said high school teacher Thomie Timmons, who spoke on behalf of the high school core planning team.

The work in the house school would help students focus on which smaller, more specialized school they will choose at the new high school, such as an arts school or science-based school.

Benefits of model A include ensuring equity in that every student goes to both buildings and a horizontal consistency in which all students, teachers and resources of one grade level are located at the same school, Timmons said. There also would be no duplication of grade-level specific resources.

The model, however, would add an additional transition for students. Another concern is the logistics and costs that would occur with transportation for activities that span all grade levels such as choir or band.

Model B would place students in grades 9 through 12 in both buildings, but the high schools could have different focuses, such as one on math and science and the other on arts and humanities, Timmons said.

Students would still get a comprehensive education at both schools, but items such as field trips could have a different emphasis based on which high school a student would attend.

Model B would involve an eighth-grade declaration process through interest and aptitude that would help students decide which high school they would attend, Timmons said.

Once a student chooses a school, it does not mean that student is required to stay at that same school, he noted.

Benefits of model B include allowing teachers from the four grade levels to have more dialog and the opportunity for upperclassmen to serve as role models.
The model could present concerns, however, such as whether the populations of each school would evenly align like projected.

Timmons said although the planning team did not recommend one model over another, there are three components essential to the success of either model.
One component is the need for a 10th-grade declaration where students can evaluate what they’ve done so far and where they want to go in their education.

The second component is to have a commencement exhibition.

"We don’t want it to be an end goal," Timmons said. "We want it to be another beginning."

Lastly, an embedded advisory where all students would have a relationship with an adviser, teacher or other role model at the school would ensure that despite the size of the school, each student’s experience would be personalized, he said.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Hoffman said the next step is to analyze the cost and logistics of the high school models.

Superintendent Steve Dackin will make a recommendation to the board at its January meeting, and planning will continue based on the direction determined by the board.

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