LIMA—It’s been nine years since Lima Senior High School transformed into three small schools, a move that took much work and multiple years to do.
Today, school officials are reevaluating the small-school concept and say without a doubt a change is coming.
“It will be different in some capacity next year,” Superintendent Jill Ackerman said.
The change, Ackerman said, could range from scrapping the small-school concept and going back to one school to variations such as dropping to two small schools.
A declining enrollment and the need to right size staff are partly why officials are looking at a change. About 900 students are at the high school this year. Two years ago there were 1,100. Enrollment has seen a constant drop, Ackerman said, but there are other factors for a change as well.
“A lot of it is based on enrollment, but also when you look at all of this (report card data), we need to take that into account too,” she said. “Is what we’re doing working and if it is not, then we need to make it different.”
State report cards released earlier this week show two of the small schools, Performance Based and Progressive Academy, dropping from Continuous Improvement to Academic Watch. Both met two out of 12 possible indicators. The School of Multiple Intelligences stayed at Continuous Improvement and met three indicators.
The overall high school graduation rate on the report card is 71.4 percent. Last year’s report showed 70.2 percent. The School of Multiple Intelligences’ rate is the highest at 86.6, followed by 77.7 in Performance and 69.7 in Progressive. Ackerman said the district needs to look at what Multiple Intelligences is doing right.
“We need to take their concepts and what they are doing that is attracting kids and is working and we need to be able to spread that wealth across the board,” she said.
Lima Senior began the small-school concept when it moved into the new high school building at the beginning of the 2004-05 school year. The work had begun a few years earlier, with the district deciding to move forward regardless of funding.
In late 2003, officials learned it would receive $991,440 over a three-year period from Knowledge Works of Cincinnati to implement small schools. The district is no longer getting Knowledge Works funding.
The concept was expected to allow for better teacher cooperation and help teachers build better relationships with students and their families. It came with its share of controversy, with not all staff, students or families initially buying into it.
Small schools did enable teachers to know all their students and develop positive relationships with them, Ackerman said.
“I consistently hear them say that, so no matter what we do, we are going to have to figure out a way to keep that relationship piece intact. But we need more rigor,” she said.
A change at the high school could mean staff layoffs across the school, Ackerman said. Currently each small school has a principal. Ackerman said the decision to reevaluate the school is not about money and will happen regardless of next month’s levy attempt.
“If money were not an issue, we still have a responsibility to be good stewards of money, so if there are places where reductions can be made, they will be made,” she said.
A small committee of teachers and administrators has met three times to begin the work. Ackerman said a decision will be made by Christmas so staff and families can begin preparing for whatever the change may be.
“That is when we would pull in parents and students and make it much larger of a planning group,” she said. “Here is what we can do, now what do you want it to look like.”
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High school changes