Later start times, higher standards suggested for Springfield schools

About 20 people attended an Idea Factory meeting held by the school district on Tuesday evening inside the Greater Springfield Career ConnectED Center at the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome, 700 S. Limestone St.

The meeting was hosted by OE Strategies, the Cuyahoga County-based consulting firm hired by the district last October to facilitate the strategic plan. The contract is worth about $48,000.

The strategic plan is expected to be reviewed by school board members for possible approval in May, Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said.

The plan will provide a road map for the district to follow over the next three to five years, including achievable goals, said Suzanne Miklos of OE Strategies. The district last year had an annual budget of about $125 million for more than 7,800 students and 950 employees in 17 buildings.

Last month, the district’s Steering Committee, a group of more than 50 individuals, determined the strengths and weaknesses of the district. The committee compiled 12 key components for the plan.

The Idea Factory meeting focused on three discussion generators, including:

• How do we define success for a Springfield graduate?

• How do we nurture a mutually beneficial relationship with the community?

• What challenges do we need to overcome?

Parents and residents had several concerns for the future. The district must have higher standards for all children, regardless of background, Springfield resident Lisa Bailey said.

“If you raise the bar for a kid, they’ll reach it, especially if you’re proud of them and you encourage them,” Bailey said.

The district should increase the grade point average for athletes to be eligible for sports, parents said. The current GPA for students to be eligible is 1.7.

The school district should also consider allowing students to arrive to school later in the morning at the high school, said Springfield resident Dana Wagner, who has two children in the district. Springfield High students currently begin school about 7:20 a.m.

“Kids grades go up when they arrive to school later,” Wagner said. “We need to look at it now. … This is low hanging fruit to get the grades up.”

Rigorous testing pressure is an issue for both students and teachers, especially for students as young as third grade, parents said.

Some kindergarten through sixth grade buildings are bursting at the seams, said Springfield Promise Neighborhood Director Bob Welker. The buildings are a strength of the district, but could be utilized as community centers, he said.

Children should also have more time to spend at recess, rather than focusing on testing, parents said. Some students get about 15 to 20 minutes per day for recess, parents said.

Early childhood education and increased preschool funding also need to be addressed, parents said.

It’s possible more public meetings could be held later this year, Hill said, but no more meetings have been scheduled.

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