NORTH RIDGEVILLE — When Superintendent James Powell opened his second State of the Schools address Thursday, he stressed that having vision and action make all the difference.
“What we do now will impact the community for the next 75 to 100 years,” Powell told a noontime gathering of 60 to 70 school, community and business leaders at the North Ridgeville Education Center.
Noting the school district is at a critical point, Powell presented a wide-ranging look at the district’s successes as well as areas where it is working to improve.
One area where the system is enjoying a positive picture is in its growth, adding about 100 new students each year thanks to a steady increase in housing starts each year.
“Other districts are losing students and closing schools, but we’re at the opposite end of that,” Powell said.
He mentioned major positives impacting the school district led by passage of a $58.1 million bond issue for a new third- through eighth-grade school to the soon-to-occur widening of Center Ridge and Lear-Nagle roads, as well as the community’s continued population growth and accompanying projected rise in home values.
Powell said the major design phase, which will produce the first drawings of the middle school and new sports stadium, is set to get underway soon.
In addition to voters approving the bond issue for the new school, Powell said passage of an operating levy has helped revenues exceed expenses for the first time in three years after cuts of more than $2 million.
North Ridgeville is devoting much time and attention to ensuring that students will be given the proper skills to successfully compete in the job market.
Achieving that goal will require improvement in a number of areas, Powell said, including closing achievement gaps between high- and low-performing students, along with boosting graduation rates.
The Ranger Academy, an online and in-class initiative with an enrollment of 60 fifth-year, at-risk, home-schooled and special-education students is one means of upping graduation rates by providing help beyond the normal school day to those who need graduation credits, as well as students who take part in work-study programs.
“The goal is to get these kids to graduate on time and with their cohorts,” Powell said.
To ease the growing problem of crowded schools, officials shifted students between Liberty and Wilcox elementary schools to more evenly distribute them.
Second- and third-graders consolidated at Liberty, while fourth- and fifth-graders were brought together at Wilcox. The change also reduced class sizes from an average of 30 to 27 pupils at both buildings.
Class sizes also were reduced at the high school via a change to a six-period schedule and permitting students to pursue 16 hours of college credit courses.
Working with Lorain County Community College, the district is looking to offer enough college credit classes for an associate degree, and eventually a four-year degree, Powell said.
Other efforts aimed at improving student performance include an early literacy program for second-graders to get them properly prepared for the third grade “reading guarantee” mandated by the state that requires children to read at proficient levels or face being held back until they can.