USA/August 12, 2022/By: Marla K. Kuhlman/Source: https://www.dispatch.com/
Students were welcomed back to classes at Westerville City Schools on Aug. 11 with a new elementary school, 90 new teachers and several new principals.
Superintendent John Kellogg said most staff participated in professional development Aug. 8.
“The consensus, the general climate, is people are relaxed, positive and excited to get going,” he said. “There’s a lot of optimism.”
With the opening of Minerva France Elementary School , 4990 Farview Road, Kellogg said, the district rightsized elementary enrollment.
“Hawthorne will be 200 to 250 less,” he said. “In terms of our buildings, we will see more manageable sizes across the district. We’re in good shape with enrollment.”
Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and family engagement, said the district’s total enrollment boasts approximately 14,700 students with an official count calculated after the first full week in October.
Kellogg said Minerva France has been getting a lot of attention.
After touring the district’s newest school, he said, “everyone is blown away by the experience.”
He said it’s nice to honor the legacy of the building being named after former Westerville student Minerva France, a Black woman who set a precedent in librarianship and higher education in the 1920s and ‘30s.
The design of the school also recognizes the former Minerva Park amusement park.
Amanda Ostendorf, Minerva France 4th– and 5th-grade special education teacher, said students have the unique opportunity of being the charter group at the school and establishing its culture.
“The 2022-2023 school year is going to be an exciting one for the staff and students at Minerva France and I am so excited to be on this journey with all of the Falcons,” she said.
Kellogg said a lot of steel is currently going up to frame the new Minerva Park Middle School that opens during the 2023-24 academic year.
“I think that whole Minerva Park area with Minerva France and the middle school, with redistricting some middle school kids, which is painful, will be exciting,” he said.
Kellogg said the district has 90 new teachers in place, providing “a lot of new, young talent.”
“There’s familiar faces in new roles,” Kellogg said.
He said the district made some changes in school start and end times going into this academic year.
“That was to free up some routes to have more buses to cover routes as needed,” Kellogg said. We’ll see how those tweaks affect transportation.”
As of Aug. 8, he said, there were three open routes, which was manageable to cover.
“We’re optimistic this year will be smoother as far as transportation,” Kellogg said.
Earlier this year, district transportation manager Randy Snyder said the 2022-23 school year would see one high school start time, one for middle school and two start times for elementary to create more efficiencies.
Kellogg said the district will have to see if the changes make a difference.
He said the school district is about “staffed up” in all positions.
“We feel we are in good stead,” Kellogg said. “I think we will be okay there. We aren’t in the hurt like some districts. We’re close to normal.”
He said the district is used to living in a pandemic, which is not something you want to get used to.
“We remind people the best way to prepare yourself with COVID is get vaccinated, get your booster,” he said. “We aren’t doing contact tracing. We have procedures in place. We’re keeping an eye on it but not going to be a slave to it.”