Shape of possible new schools still unclear for Groveport Madison


By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Parents in the Groveport Madison school district may be warming up to the idea of a K-8 grade configuration for the district’s proposed new schools.

However, some members of the Groveport Madison Board of Education are skeptical of the results from recent focus group studies about the issue because of the small number of participants in those focus groups.

The district contracted with Hanover Research, at a cost of $45,500, to conduct a survey and analysis regarding future school building needs. The firm conducted an electronic survey last winter and also held met recently with two focus groups consisting of Groveport Madison middle school and elementary school parents respectively.

“Our research questions focused on community perceptions of various grade configurations, rather than the ideal grade configuration for Groveport Madison,” said Tony Guadagni, senior content director for Hanover Research.  “Our study suggests that there was sufficient community interest in the K-8 model to warrant a comprehensive feasibility assessment, but we do not recommend a specific grade configuration for the district.”

In addition to information regarding the K-8 grade configuration for proposed new schools, the firm suggested district officials communicate clearly to parents about the functional segmenting of the age groups in a K-8 structure; and complete a cost study to determine the expense differences between a K-8 grade set up and the existing grade configuration of K-5 and 6,7,8.

According to district officials, a proposed K-8 configuration would have staggered start times and busing for the different grade levels and the varying grade levels would be in separate wings of the building.

Online survey and focus groups
Grade configuration options discussed in the Hanover Research survey and focus groups were: K-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and high school; K-5, 6,7,8 and high school (the current configuration); K-6, 7,8 and high school; and K-8 and high school.

Earlier this year, 954 responses (received from parents, district staff, and community members) to Hanover Research’s online survey indicated the most preferred grade configuration was K-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8. However, when the respondents’ first and second choices were added together, most preferred the existing grade configuration of K-5, 6-8, and high school. The least liked configuration option by respondents to the online survey was the K-8 model.

According to information obtained in recent focus groups, participating parents appeared more open to the K-8 proposal.

“Hanover’s parent focus group drew upon conversations with nine parents from Groveport Madison Schools,” said Guadagni. “These parents have students in grades 2-7.”

The report notes that five of the nine parents in the focus groups were from the Groveport area, three from Columbus, and one from Reynoldsburg.

According to focus group results, parents:

•Want to know more about proposed building locations, funding, and functional logistics for grade configuration.

•Are concerned about old buildings, the stress of school transitions between so many buildings, and the importance of segmenting age groups.

•Indicated the need for new school buildings is a top priority citing safety issues, condition of the buildings, overcrowding, and inconsistency in transitioning between schools.

•Believe district communication must improve.

•Think the district needs to engage more with the community, especially because of the jurisdictional oddities created by the large geographic size of the district which includes a mixture of cities and township neighborhoods.

Regarding the proposed K-8 grade configuration, the input Hanover Research received from the nine focus group parents indicated they liked that it would reduce the number of transitions between school buildings. They also liked the idea more when the concept of staggering busing and starting times to separate the grade levels was discussed and that the different grade levels would be in separate wings in the school. The parents indicated a K-8 structure could improve equity in the distribution of funds and materials, strengthen a sense of community, and improve security and academics.

Questions by parents regarding proposed new grade configurations included: What are the costs? Where would the new schools be located and why? How would the funding from the closed schools be redistributed and how would they be spent? How would it affect the Win-Win renewal? Would the new buildings all have the same design?

School board member reactions
Board President Bryan Shoemaker questioned Hanover Research’s report, citing that only nine parents were involved in the focus groups.

“Nine people’s opinions is not a major shift in thinking,” said Shoemaker.
Guadagni said originally 24 parents from throughout the district were sought to fulfill the focus groups, but there were no shows.

“There were only nine, but it is still a rich data set,” said Guadagni.

Board member Libby Gray said she was disappointed in the report and questioned Hanover Research’s methods.

“We spent a lot of money on this and then there were only nine people in the focus group and they are mostly from the same area,” said Gray. “When there were only nine, why not go a different route to get more participation numbers? I feel I can’t rely on any of this information because just having nine people respond is not telling me anything. We need more community input.”

Guadagni said the results are suggestive that parents would be open to considering grade configuration ideas if information is communicated to them effectively.

Board member Nancy Gillespie said, “I thought the information we got was interesting. I thought the report was great. We still do need to more.”

Shoemaker suggested the district could conduct its own focus groups or community forums to obtain feedback.

“We need to have more discussions on this before we go any further,” said Shoemaker.

The board will continue to discuss which future grade configuration to pursue and when to place a bond issue on the ballot to fund the potential construction of new buildings.

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  1. Money may have been better spent actually paying folks to do phone calls and/or using a texting system. Reply 1 if you prefer option 1. 2 for option 2. Etc. Just notify parents before hand. I guarantee there’s something out there that can do this. And it would take less than 5 seconds for folks to respond and be done. No time wasted with opening email boxes that are probably filled with junk nor having to go to a different site,

  2. What a waste of taxpayer’s money. I hope Hanover Research is never used again if these are the type of results they provide.


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