A new Springfield city schools plan will offer high school students from other districts access to more specialized classes and, officials said, would create a better-educated workforce in the area.
The school system’s plan, in essence, offers part-time instructional services by contracting with a student’s home district, which would still count the student as full-time and get credit for the student’s achievements.
The board of education unanimously approved it Thursday night.
Superintendent David Estrop said the plan might be the first of its kind in the state.
John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said it’s the first he’s heard of a contract program like it, except for special education, which is frequently contracted out to other districts that have those programs.
“We had a growing number of requests to open our courses and our programs to students outside of Springfield City. These have come from students, parents and even board members from outside of Springfield,” Estrop said.
At least one Clark County superintendent supports it.
“At first glance, this looks like a good thing for students that will increase the opportunities available to them,” said Dan Bennett, superintendent of Greenon Local Schools.
“At Greenon, we’re committed to offering more opportunities for kids and families, like our expansion of all-day kindergarten and introduction of STEM classes at the junior high, and I’m pleased to work alongside superintendents who are coming up with creative ideas for the benefit of our community and our children,” he added.
Cost to the home school district for a part-time student would be the equivalent of one-seventh of the average state share per year-long class. That equals $553 for the 2013-14 school year, plus a 4 percent administrative fee and the cost of any required testing, according to the proposal.
It would cost half that for those taking a semester-long class, Estrop said.
Part-time students would remain on their home school district rolls, and the home school district would receive credit for student scores on state assessments. The students would not be eligible to participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities at Springfield.
“I think (that) will relieve some concern for some of the home districts. The students actually, in the eyes of the state, will remain on the home school district’s rolls. All that they’re doing is contracting with us,” Estrop said.
In-classroom instruction at Springfield High and Keifer Academy is limited to year-long and second semester classes for staffing reasons. However, first semester courses will be available through such programs as the online OnCourse.
Springfield offerings include International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, OnCourse and The Learning Cafe, which nearby districts either have limited or no comparable offerings, according to the district.
Springfield High School is one of only 27 schools in the state of Ohio to offer the International Baccalaureate program and offers more Advanced Placement courses than any other district in the area, to his knowledge, and in the county, Estrop said.
“The part-time program is available for all of the district’s programs depending upon space, but (Springfield High School) will clearly have the largest number of choices and likely the most number of seats given its size,” Estrop said.
Those high school courses include five world languages at different levels, nine technology topics, 19 fine arts topics, four family and consumer science topics, nine health and physical education topics, two business topics and Marine Corps JROTC leadership courses.
It’s also the only district in the area offering Mandarin Chinese.
“If you’re thinking about a business degree, and international business in particular, I would hope you know something about the Chinese market and Chinese culture,” Estrop said. “Our kids will leave Springfield with a leg up who are thinking about going into international business or international relations.”
While Springfield offers a range of class levels, AP classes for example are offered based on student request, so they all might not always be offered each year, District Spokeswoman Kim Fish said.
“For instance, if we have students who request AP French one year, but not the next year, we adjust as best we can.” she said.
Tecumseh Local Schools parent Walt Sandy, whose son Jordan Sandy, 17, will be a senior this year, hoped area districts will accept the plan and accept advanced level classes as equal to what they’d take in their home district — an area of concern for him.
Jordan took a semester-long gym class over the summer through Springfield because he needed to free up a period this school year. Walt said he’s exploring Jordan’s part time enrollment in courses this school year at Springfield.
The enrollment model follows state open enrollment laws for full-time students, but adds the contract component for part-time students.
Students who reside within the district will continue to be considered first for open seats in district classes and programs.
That’s followed in priority on a first-come, first-served basis by: students who reside outside the district but are dependents of district employees and wish to enroll full-time; students who reside outside the district and wish to enroll full-time; and students outside the district and who wish to enroll on a part-time basis.
The home district’s board of education would need to approve a resolution for the district to participate, according to Estrop, and the part-time student would need to apply for and be approved for enrollment.
“I’m not sure any school district in the state of Ohio has offered these kinds of services to improve opportunities for students outside of their school district and, frankly, at a rate that should be very appealing to these local school districts,” Estrop said.
“Springfield City Schools just needs to get the word out. It’s a great program because everyone’s got different wants and needs,” Walt Sandy said. “It’s going to open up (kids) eyes and get kids more options.”