By Lenny C. Lepola
Big Walnut Local School District Superintendent Steve Mazzi said he is pleased with how smoothly the 2014-15 school year began.
“There were some first day bus issues,” Mazzi said during last Thursday evening’s board of education meeting. “As we work through these we ask folks to be patient.”
Mazzi said the work that went into reopening Harrison Street Elementary School was worth it. The school reopened this year following four years in mothballs to accommodate student population growth.
“I’ve always said we cannot put out a ‘No Vacancy’ sign,” Mazzi said. “Our numbers are high, that’s why we reopened Harrison Street and added some staff around the district to alleviate over-crowding. We’ll continue to monitor that, but we have to remember the development is going to come, and as it comes we’ll have to adjust to it because we can’t turn students away, we have to plan ahead for them.”
District Assistant Superintendent Angie Pollock said there were 62 new staff faces at the beginning of the school year, some because the district took preschool operations over from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, some replacing retirees and employees that have moved on, and eight teachers added to accommodate swelling class sizes.
“We added three teachers at the intermediate school, four teachers were added at the elementary buildings to lower class sizes in grades three and four and, because of class-size in math, we added one teacher at the high school,” Pollock said. “Class sizes are not where we want them to be. Two buildings are still on the fence. We’re definitely growing, and there are going to be changes in our staff size to accommodate that.”
Pollock said the recently hired teachers were not all young fresh graduates; the district wanted to hire what she called a blend of experience and newness.
She said 30 new freshmen enrolled at Big Walnut High School; 26 to 27 students at General Rosecrans Elementary School’s first grade classes (the district prefers elementary class sizes of 25 students or less); and Hylen Souders Elementary has a third grade class with 28 students.
“Big Walnut Intermediate is growing so fast, we went from eight sections to 10 sections,” Pollock said. “We’re getting a lot more demand for special education. A lot more multiple disabled and special ed students are moving to the district. We’re seeing that trend impact the budget more quickly.”