BACK TO SCHOOL: Be patient, be flexible says superintendent


The fall routine will get a shake-up this year as students return to school in Amherst.

Harris Elementary has closed and will soon be demolished. As a result, third and fourth grades have been moved to Nord Middle School. In a domino effect, sixth grade has been moved to Amherst Junior High and preschool has been moved from Nord back to Powers Elementary.

“It’s going to take, admittedly, a little more time at the beginning of this year, especially at Nord and the junior high, to settle into the routine because of the changes and grade configurations,” said district superintendent Steven Sayers.

Closing Harris is the first step toward building a new school on the South Lake Street site.

For the next two years, but especially this August and September, Sayers is asking parents to be patient and flexible as everyone adjusts to learning in four schools instead of five.

The first two to four weeks of school may well prove frustrating. That’s because routines and traffic patterns will change drastically as pick-up and drop-off procedures are hammered out, both at the school buildings and bus stops.

Sayers said teachers and other staff have put a lot of thought and planning into handling the shift. They’ll improvise and adjust in the first weeks of school to smooth headaches.

“That’s what sets our staff apart,” he said. “They have a knack for doing what it takes to get it done and makes things work, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.”

Some summer upgrades and fixes have already been completed around the district, such as repaving of the south parking lot at Steele High School and a renovation of its Washington Avenue courtyard space. A multi-million-dollar heating and cooling project at Nord Middle School is expected to wrap up soon.

A big goal this year — already being undertaken by new building and grounds supervisor Chuck Grimmett — is to raise the bar for cleanliness in and around schools. That means keeping bushes better trimmed, trash cleaned up, and “curb appeal” at a higher level, Sayers said.

“We think that plays into our pride, not only for the staff and students but for the community as well,” he said.

On the financial side, the Amherst Schools have found a $500,000 windfall.

Earlier in 2017, the state biennial budget was poised to deliver a blow of that size to the district. The initial projections were softened though during the legislative process, and ultimately Amherst was flat-funded by the Ohio legislature through June 2019 — much to the relief of treasurer Barbara Donohue.

Sayers said the district will benefit substantially just by having Harris closed. This year, the building won’t generate any heating, air conditioning, electricity, water, sewer, phone, or Internet bills — there will also be big savings in staff and purchased services.

Of course, none of that matters unless Amherst’s 3,800 students are learning.

“From a big picture perspective, we try to really focus on helping each student work to his or her full potential. That’s really our focus,” Sayers said.

His overriding goal is to make sure that all grade levels and interests have the support they need, and that kids from prekindergarten to 12th grade are getting a well-rounded educational experience.

It’s not always about grades, either; Sayers said he doesn’t want to get so focused on state test scores that we lose sight of the arts, what it means to be a good citizen, or having a broad range of exploratory classes at the high school.

He said Amherst’s offerings have grown tremendously in the last few years with the introduction of all-day kindergarten, an orchestra program, and electives. “They are the things that energize me because I know they mean more opportunities for kids,” Sayers said.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

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Amherst Schools superintendent Steven Sayers loves the fall, which gives students a chance at new beginnings and fresh starts. There’s an energy and positivity that pervades each August leading up to the first football game, hearing the band play, as teachers ready their classrooms, and as kids shop for back-to-school clothes and supplies, he said.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_20170809_104544.jpgAmherst Schools superintendent Steven Sayers loves the fall, which gives students a chance at new beginnings and fresh starts. There’s an energy and positivity that pervades each August leading up to the first football game, hearing the band play, as teachers ready their classrooms, and as kids shop for back-to-school clothes and supplies, he said.

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com

IT’S ALMOST HERE!

The first day of school for grades one to 12 is Wednesday, Aug. 23. Kindergartners start Monday, Aug. 28 and preschoolers begin Tuesday, Aug. 29. Go Comets!