Reynoldsburg Reach begins meetings as bond issue passes

Reynoldsburg Reach public meeting schedule

All meetings will take place at 7 p.m.

•April 17, Waggoner Road MS

•April 22, Herbert Mills

•April 23, Waggoner Road JH

•April 29, Graham Road

•May 1, Hannah Ashton MS

•May 6, Rose Hill

•May 8, Baldwin Road JH

•May 13, Taylor Road

•May 15, Slate Ridge

•May 22, French Run

•May 29, Reynoldsburg High

With the official results of a Reynoldsburg school bond issue giving the district a win, officials will hold 27 meetings over 60 days with residents and faculty to discuss how new buildings will operate.

With the final results in from Franklin, Licking and Fairfield counties, the 4.9-mill issue passed by a 186-vote margin.

Licking County certified its official results April 2, and Franklin County announced its results April 4.

The issue squeaked by, with 6,235 votes in favor and 6,049 against, for a 51 to 49 percent margin.

Licking County voters to the east approved the issue by a wider margin, casting 1,737 votes (58 percent) in favor and 1,259 (42 percent) against.

Fairfield voters cast two votes for and two against the issue.

The $56 million in local taxes, matched with $55 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, is to be used for the construction of a second high school and seventh elementary school, along with renovations of other buildings.

To receive the state funds, the projects have to be completed within three years of the official passage of the bond issue. The new buildings are planned to open in 2010, with renovations to be finished the following year.

During the campaign, the bond issue proponents shifted from solely discussing a traditional high school and elementary school to pledging a debate on other options.

"The decision we have to make in the next 60 days is, do we want choice?" explained Assistant Superintendent Dan Hoffman to teachers at Taylor Road Elementary School March 31.

Hoffman is a former Reynoldsburg administrator who returned in January after founding such programs as Franklin County’s Metro School, which focuses study around the arts.

Hoffman noted that Reynoldsburg has a unique opportunity to structure its class offerings "before the architect puts pen to paper," rather than making them fit a building that has already been designed.

The options that are being presented are:

•Two traditional high schools, for grades 9-12. The second high school would be located on property at Refugee and Summit roads and attendance would be based on geographic boundaries.

•One school that would house grades 9-10, and the other accommodating grades 11-12.

•Six small high schools, to be located on the two campuses, focusing on different academic areas, such as math and science and arts or language. Attendance would be based on parents’ and students’ choice.

•A traditional elementary school, also to be build on the Refugee/Summit property, with attendance based on geographic lines; or a "choice" elementary with a specialized curriculum, and attendance determined by parent choice.

Graham Road Elementary is slated to be closed under either scenario.

The so-called "schools of choice" are typically organized under three categories, Hoffman said – how the world works, emphasizing areas such as math and science or technology; communication, highlighting language arts and similar disciplines; and how students learn, either with a traditional curriculum or planned to nurture multiple intelligences.

When the bond issue was defeated by voters in 2006, some residents expressed concern that having two high schools would divide the community.

Having schools for grades 9-10 and 11-12 would retain one identity, with one football team, and one band, for example, Hoffman said.

Having small, specialized schools under one roof, with around 400 students each, could allow principals and teachers the opportunity to get to know the kids better and provide more individual attention, the administrators pointed out.

There are two things that all parents want from their schools, Hoffman added. "They want schools that are serious and that prepare their kids, and they want schools that are safe."

Weighing in

The Taylor Road teachers were asked to list the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that they perceived under each option. Participants in future faculty and community meetings will be asked to subject the scenarios to the same S.W.O.T. process.

The teachers saw the traditional high school structure as being comfortable and familiar, but also limiting in terms of learning opportunities. It could also split the community, they warned between the old and the new school.

Dackin did point out that the current high school was scheduled for a $13 million overhaul. All of the elementary buildings except Slate Ridge, the newest, would undergo renovations, as would Baldwin Road Junior High. Hannah Ashton Middle School was refurbished under the last round of construction.

Having schools for grades 9-10 and 11-12 would keep the community unified, the teachers believed, and keeping the similar age groups together could enhance safety.

The specialized schools in the high school buildings could expand career choices and mentoring opportunities, but could also limit flexibility and keep some students from exploring new ideas, the teachers offered.

The Taylor Road group was divided n the merits of offering a "school of choice" at the new elementary. The primary grade teachers saw little value in providing such a choice to the youngest children, with the intermediary grade teachers seeing it as a benefit for older kids.

As district officials meet with numerous groups over the next two months, Hoffman conceded that the challenge will be to get people to understand how "schools of choice" work, without appearing to promote one option over another.

Once all meetings are held, the information will be drafted into a report that will go to the school board, which will make the final decision.

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