Middle schools may go

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Middle schools may be a thing of the past for Columbus City Schools.

olumbus City Schools Board of Education heard a report and recommendations from Michelle Mills, chief executive officer of St. Stephens Community House and Douglas Lumpkin, executive director of Job and Family Services, both members of the Linden Education Task Force at the Dec. 18 board meeting.

This task force was formed out of the board’s desire to communicate with the Linden community about the declining enrollment for Linden area CCS schools.

One of the results of that report is the proposal to eliminate middle schools in Linden area schools. If this reconfiguration is a success, it will be a pilot for all other Columbus City Schools (CCS) in the district.

Superintendent Gene Harris said the reason for considering Linden schools is due to the decrease in enrollment and population in that area and CCS wants to respond to the communities’ needs.

“The decline has called for closure of three elementary schools and one middle school, and so we knew we needed to have a conversation with the community and develop a new charge,” said Harris.

The Task Force did several focus groups with community members that included students, parents and the community at large. In addition, the Task Force had surveys taken by both outside and inside sources, they researched high-performing schools and they reviewed educational “best practices,”  

Jeff Warner, district spokesperson, said the district is working hard to ensure they meet the 90 percent graduation rate by 2012 and also keep up with the requirements of the Ohio CORE program, a program passed by the Ohio legislature. This program raises the bar in the areas of math and science, so CCS’s hope is that by eliminating middle schools the district will be able to better prepare students for those academic requirements.

“It would give our sixth and seventh-graders access to higher level math and science courses, to foreign language courses and hopefully, still keep them in their own community in school choice programs,” said Warner.

Warner said currently the sixth and seventh-graders do not have enough staff to provide the kind of teaching they need to compete with other students and Warner said the K-6 and 7-12 grades would likely still be held in buildings on the same campus, if not in the same buildings.

Harris said starting with the class of 2014, students will have to have the Ohio CORE to gain admittance into almost all but three of Ohio’s state universities. The required amount of units for math has gone up to four from three units and all science courses will be laboratory based. The required amount of units for math has gone up to four from three units and all science courses will be laboratory based.

“We must prepare every student we serve to succeed. Our students do not just compete against students from Gahanna, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but also against students from Berlin, Tokyo and New Delhi for spots in universities and later, for careers,” said Harris.

Warner said these changes will begin next year strictly with elementary school and then the following year with the high school.

“The sixth grade would remain at the middle school and the following year, we’d move them all and high school would start,” said Warner.

Harris said this proposal would allow for better utilization of staff and school buildings, reduce the district’s building operations costs and over time, reduce bus transportation costs.

“Columbus City Schools must use all available resources in the most effective and efficient manner to provide a state-of-the-art education system for all our students to succeed. This system reconfiguration and design proposal is to be considered as a means of preparing the students of Columbus City Schools to be competitive in the 21st  century in our global economy,” said Warner.

Other recommendations from the task force was to establish dedicated committees and coordinators to make sure the community gets information in a timely manner and plan more activities to bring the schools and community closer together, and also include bettering the schools services to support educational, emotional and social needs of the students and continue to research high-performing schools and possibly implement their practices.

CCS also adopted a board policy prohibiting students from bullying one another. Boyd noted that the district already has a policy in place to discourage students from intimidating or bullying others but the Ohio legislature is requiring we had a specific policy in place by Dec. 31, with the same definition as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.

CCS Superintendent Gene Harris said this policy is simply reinforcing what CCS is already doing. Harris said CCS does not tolerate bullying and that is not only outlined in the student code of conduct but this issue is also discussed through assemblies, with teachers and parents.

“This policy means we will continue to underscore that in CCS we really will not tolerate any students being harassed or bullied. This is really not new for us; it may not have been in this policy format, but we’re all about safe schools and safe climate. It’s one of the reasons that we started the positive behavior intervention and support work we’ve been doing with our staff over the last year,” said Harris.

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