By AMANDA TONOLI
Neighborhood schools are returning to Youngstown.
Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip is set to unveil his long-anticipated school reconfiguration plan today. He said a goal of bringing back neighborhood schools is to increase parental involvement.
“When we complain about parents not showing up and parental involvement, we have to consider that it’s really hard for them transportationwise when their kids’ schools are on the other side of the city,” Mohip said. “This is about getting the kids as close as possible to their schools.”
Mohip’s plan is to place students in prekindergarten through eighth grade into one of nine school buildings closest to their homes – Paul C. Bunn Elementary, Williamson Elementary, Programs of Promise at Wilson, Taft Elementary, Volney Rogers Middle, McGuffey Elementary, Discovery at Kirkmere, Martin Luther King Elementary and Harding Elementary.
The district also will be split into two high-school regions.
After eighth grade, students from MLK, Harding, Williamson and Taft will attend East High School.
Students from Paul C. Bunn, Kirkmere, Volney, McGuffey and Wilson will attend a newly configured Chaney High School.
Mohip made the decision to bring back neighborhood schools after five Community Input Meetings, an ongoing discussion with his leadership team and a number of teacher and principal surveys.
“The data was very clear from the Community Input Meetings that people wanted neighborhood schools back,” he said.
Out of the 14 principals surveyed, all had confidence the schools were moving in the right direction and would support the reconfiguration publicly; 83 percent said they are willing to give the plan five years to succeed.
“I don’t expect 100 percent in everything, but what I do expect is for people to give it a chance,” Mohip said. “Right now, it’s just very clear this K-6 [plan] is not working.”
The district was the first in Ohio to have Republican Gov. John R. Kasich appoint a CEO to help restructure the failing school district under House Bill 70. HB 70 gives the CEO near-full authority to pull districts out of persistent academic failure.
According to a state audit done recently by the Ohio Department of Education, the schools are not providing an equitable education across the district, Mohip said.
Specifically, the majority of the district’s special programs – such as the STEM VPA school – are found only on the city’s West Side.
“How do we put all of our resources on one side of town?” Mohip asked.
The student distribution will be better, Mohip said, as opposed to now when some prekindergarten-through-sixth-grade buildings are overcrowded.
“We made an investment in early childhood [education], which increased enrollment by 30 percent,” Mohip said. “Now, we need to put students in their home schools to make room for that.”
Each school will be equipped with special programs including: STEM pathways, foreign-language options, sports teams, fine-arts programs, physical education, technology classes and Chromebooks for every student per the One-to-One Initiative.
“The goal is for every school to be high-quality and have each building take responsibility for our children,” he said. “No one is going backward, and everyone gets to have these programs.”
Another benefit of reorganizing schools in this manner, Mohip said, is cutting down on sometimes costly transitioning from grade school to middle school.
“There are studies that show transitions cause some amount of achievement loss in students,” he said. “Basically what we did is we looked at what other districts were doing nationwide, and if it is working in all these other cities, why not here?”
In addition, seventh- and eighth-graders will have the opportunity to act as mentors to younger students within their buildings, he said.
Special programs including Rayen Early College and Youngstown Early College will see small changes. Rayen’s program now will include fourth- through eighth-graders. YEC will move to the Irene L. Ward Building, 20 W. Wood St.
Mohip plans to relocate the central office to one of the high schools and to hire new high-school principals. Although new principals have not yet been chosen, Chaney Campus’ Joe Krumpak and East’s Denise Vaclav-Danko will be moved to other positions.
There are no plans in place to move Choffin Career and Technical Center.
“Creating neighborhood schools is just one part of what needs to happen to transform a district,” Mohip said. “If we can make the changes necessary, if we are not ruled by fear and we are not paralyzed by it, we will have success.”