WH School District eager to begin educational visioning

WH School District eager to  begin educational visioning

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Change in a school district can be difficult. There are major investments to consider, but the most critical consideration remains investing in what creates the best educational opportunities for the students.

Part of that includes creating safe classrooms and buildings that can help develop educational experiences for students and staff.

West Holmes School District is currently in the infant stages of exploring all its options for creating the ideal scenario to promote a positive educational experience for its students and staff. Whether that means building a single campus housing the high school, middle school and elementary school or perhaps investing money into refurbishing the existing elementary schools, that decision is far down the road, according to West Holmes Superintendent Eric Jurkovich.

While the decision is well into the future, Jurkovich said one group they wanted to hear from first was the educators because the district believes educational visioning will drive what will benefit the district the best.

Every teacher in the district attended West Holmes High School on Tuesday, Aug. 16 to hear from a group from Fanning Howey, an architectural firm that has done extensive work with building schools.

Included in the trio were Dan Obrynba, project executive; Marv Wourms, community engagement; and Emmy Beeson, educational visioning/professional development.

The three guided the staff through what types of processes would take place and discussed a variety of options. Most importantly, they gave the staff plenty of opportunity to voice their opinions and give their input as to what would make the ideal teaching setting in the classroom and buildings.

“It’s a key point for us because we can’t leave them out of the process,” Jurkovich said. “They are a key component. They are in the building every day, working with the kids.”

He said the architects billed this day as a think tank session.

“This was to talk about pedagogy, classroom settings and instruction processes. We wanted them to think about their collaborative space within the buildings. We’re not here to solve any problems right now. This is simply a chance to share vision and ideas,” Jurkovich said.

Jurkovich said the staff within the district is doing an admirable job of teaching within the parameters of the buildings and classrooms they have at their disposal. However, he said teaching techniques and technology have changed drastically over the years and the resources available to teaching students have increased.

“We have to start thinking about how we change our buildings to benefit the kids the most,” Jurkovich said. “We are basically in the old style of rows of desks, and there are a multitude of options available to us now that weren’t available when our schools were built.”

Jurkovich said the community understands the ages of the district buildings and has had many conversations with people throughout the district who are eager to see what direction the district will take.

With the staff session now in the rearview mirror, Jurkovich said the district will continue to create opportunities to hear from the staff, the community and perhaps even the children as to what they would like to see in their buildings and classrooms. He said the district will create a core exploratory committee that will begin putting ideas together and prepare options to present to the community.

“It’s about exploring the possibilities within the classroom,” Jurkovich said.

The district is still in waiting mode to see the building assessments on each of the buildings within the district, and he said he will receive an enrollment projection for the next 10 years.

“This is not something where we are promoting one campus or four buildings. It is about what does education look like inside of a building,” Jurkovich said. “We want this to be whatever the community wants. Even the architects said the community is a huge piece of the puzzle in designing schools. When we roll this out, it’s going to be something we know the community wants to support, but just to have the opportunity to sit down with everyone and discuss this is so important.”

Jurkovich said he is currently working with the Ohio Facilities Commission, the company that did the assessment on all the district’s buildings. As of now he said the district is locked into 28% funding from the state, meaning taxpayers would pick up the remaining 72%.

However, Jurkovich said the process is in such an early stage that nothing is set in stone.

“We’ll explore all options,” Jurkovich said. “If we would choose to go through the state for funding, it is a little more cookie cutter where we are locked into certain things. If we’d decide it would be cheaper to build ourselves because that is the way we want to do it, we could go that route.”

For the district it’s all about the possibilities to enhance educating the students. He said working through ideas and comparing new ideas to what the district is currently spending gives the community a better idea of the big picture.

“We’ve got a tremendous school district, and we want to learn how to make it the best it can be,” Jurkovich said. “We’re a long way off and in the infant stages, but we want to take this one step at a time and hear from as many people as possible.”