By Lenny C. Lepola
Big Walnut Local School District students walked, were bused, were driven or drove to one of the district’s seven buildings for the first day of the 2014-15 school year Aug. 13. During the Aug. 14 evening’s board of education meeting board members expressed kudos for a smooth first day of many to come before the Class of 2015 graduates on May 23.
District bus schedules are always a concern on the first day of classes, and especially so this year as the district’s new two-tier bell time routes were fine-tuned, said Ron McClure, Director of Administrative Services.
McClure was at Harrison Street Elementary School as the first buses pulled in. With HSE closed for the past four years and the recent redistricting, he said that would be the school where he expected major busing problems to surface.
“The community wanted to move away from the three-tier bell times and back to a two-tier system,” McClure said. “The two-tier actually gives us more flexibility. We have one bus running a little late. Other than that, everything is running smoothly.”
Harrison Street was the focus of a lot of the district’s attention last Wednesday – a mothballed building with a recent refurbishment, redistricted students walking through the doors, a new principal and both new and reassigned teachers.
“It was a fantastic first day,” said HSE Principal Kim Castiglione. “Everybody got in and to their classrooms, they all had smiles on their faces. That was our goal.”
Castiglione said reopening Harrison Street and getting classrooms ready for students was a team effort.
“No one person could have done something like this,” Castiglione said. “Teachers, our non-teaching staff, maintenance, custodians, PTO members – everyone pitched in to help make reopening this building a reality.”
In the past, Ohio’s students were required to attend school a specific number of days each school year. New this year is an hour-based system. School districts, joint vocational school districts and chartered nonpublic schools must be open for instruction for a minimum of: 455 hours for students in half-day kindergarten; 910 hours for students in full-day kindergarten through Grade 6; and 1,001 hours for students in Grades 7 through 12.
At the board meeting Aug. 14, board member Mindy Meyer asked parents dropping students off at school buildings to not use cell phones while in the drop-off areas.
“Students are excited rushing too and from buildings, and we all know that cell phones can be distracting,” Meyer said. “We all want our students to have a safe school year.”