Last updated: August 25. 2013 12:34AM - 323 Views

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LIMA — Lima Senior High School and a unified Spartan will get a fresh start next school year.

“It is a clean slate,” Superintendent Jill Ackerman said Thursday when announcing that the school will no longer have three small schools next year, but instead become one again.

The school board is expected to approve moving to one school at its Jan. 10 organizational meeting. A design team of staff, students and parents will begin working on the details after winter break. Ackerman wants a final plan by mid-February. She hopes to get the team together in a retreat setting.

“So they can begin to dream and create what we think will be a great opportunity for our kids,” she said.

A committee of teachers and administrators have been meeting since the start of this school year about Lima Senior changing from its current three small schools. Input has come from staff and students. A small number of people attended two public meetings last week.

Enrollment has declined at the high school, and that is partly why officials began looking at a change. There are about 900 students at the high school this year. Two years ago there were 1,100. Ackerman said there are not enough students to sustain having three full high schools.

Lima Senior began the small-school concept when it moved into the new Lima Senior at the beginning of the 2004-05 school year. The district received funding from Knowledge Works of Cincinnati to implement small schools. It is no longer getting Knowledge Works funding.

The decision to change came down to two choices: To drop to two schools or to one. Ackerman warned that going back to the high school of 10 years ago before small schools isn’t an option.

“A traditional high school schedule will not be acceptable,” she said. “It has to be something that is creative and innovative and geared toward 21st Century learning and workforce ready as well.”

Ackerman listed things officials know people value at the high school, starting with relationship building between teachers and students and families. Small schools was designed to promote those relationships, and it has worked. That won’t change, Ackerman said.

“We do believe that no matter whether you have three schools, or however many kids, you sure can have relationships with kids,” she said.

The one school will allow for some block scheduling opportunities, something parents, teachers and students have said they like. It works well with certain courses, Ackerman said, and allows for increased learning time.

It is also possible that students will be able to follow a certain pathway if they want. Possibilities includes arts, engineering, college bound or vocational work. The school will continue with pieces of the NewTech program currently used in the Progressive Academy. Lima Senior has an agreement with NewTech for two more years.

Students will have better opportunities to access all courses. Ackerman said this became a barrier with the three separate small schools. The schools were very contained with little room for movement between schools. That loosened over time, but not enough.

“It has worked to some extent, but I don’t think it has worked to the greatest benefit that it could have worked for us,” Ackerman said.

With the change, school officials commit to doing a better job at communicating to students and parents at an earlier age about the high school.

“We need to be starting in fourth and fifth grades talking about all the opportunities we have at Lima Senior High School,” she said.

Ackerman believes going back to one school will tackle the “Spartan identity crisis” created by competition between schools. It resulted in a loss of identity and Spartan pride, she said.

“We like competition and encourage that, but we really feel we should not be competing with ourselves, but we should be competing with other districts so we can be the best in the state rather than the best within our schools,” she said.

The move will be a cost saver, but it will also mean staff reductions. Those could come in both teaching and administration. Ackerman envisions one principal leading the school. Up until a few weeks ago, each small school had a principal. One recently left the district and has not been replaced.

Ackerman said the number of reductions won’t be known until a schedule is created and the district knows if there will be any retirements.

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