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Columbus Schools Superintendent Annette Deuman talks about next steps in the Launch initiative during a meeting June 18, 2018 at the high school. Looking on is Business Services Director Janel DeZarn. The district is currently conducting a facilities study to examine the middle school building. 

Columbus School District is moving into the next phase of its Launching a Legacy initiative.

In December, the seven study teams presented its findings and recommendations to the Columbus School Board. The teams focused on athletics and co-curriculars, communications and outreach, community campus and partnerships, curriculum and instruction, facility infrastructure, efficiency and maintenance, performing arts, and safety, security and well-being. The groups chose to focus on those areas after reviewing results of a spring 2018 community survey.

“Based on the research and the data from the survey, each team created a statement need and the board took that statement need and recommendation and determined if the recommendation was feasible at this time to move forward or if those recommendations were already met based on the priorities the district has and that the administrative team has action plans set for already within those priorities,” said Superintendent Annette Deuman.

On Dec. 12, the board held a retreat to review the teams’ findings and recommendations. As a result, the board approved a facilities study and hired Bray Architects to conduct the study at its Jan. 29 meeting. Results of the study will be released in March. In addition, the district is forming a Community Facilities Advisory Committee. Columbus residents are encouraged to apply for a seat on the committee. Applications are due Feb. 28 and can be accessed on the school’s website.

Study teams began meeting in June 2018 under the guidance of consultant Drew Howick. Deuman also lent her expertise as a facilitator. The groups were comprised of local residents, many of them parents, along with teachers and administrators.

Deuman said the group’s findings didn’t surprise her as she was involved in the process through the past several months.

“Each of the study teams updated the entire group so while we were separate study teams we were all together in the process,” Deuman said. “Each time we met we updated each other on where we were at, what we had been researching, the data brought forward, and interesting things we found within the data. We kind of all knew where everyone was in the process.”

The future of the district’s facilities will likely be an important topic in the coming years. All three of Columbus’ buildings are showing signs of age. Last spring, a group of residents voiced support for a referendum to fund a new campus building, but that talk died down after study teams formed.

“Priority No. 1 was to review and look at our facilities as a whole to create a community campus model, which has been a priority all along,” Deuman said. “We also had several other recommendations made by the study groups, so now we have to see how all of those recommendations fit under the remainder of the priorities.”

If the district forms a community campus, it may take direction from other regional districts that have built a similar model.

The district is also looking at creating a communications strategy, which was recommended by the communications and outreach group. Deuman said the strategy could lead to technology upgrades at the district.

The security and student well-being group discussed implementing a character development guidance curriculum.

“That really is the crux of the work we’ve been doing within our student services department so that one ties so closely with the work we’re already implementing within priority No. 3,” Deuman said. “We’ll continue to develop those action plans in making sure that recommendation is deeply imbedded into the actions we put into priority No. 3.”

Overall, Deuman is pleased with the direction of Launching a Legacy, an initiative that began in October 2016 with the Launching Forward phase. The superintendent believes the process puts the future of the district in the hands of the community.

“It was a learning process and we really did a lot of research to make solid recommendations to the board to where the district is and where the next steps we and the community felt it needed to take to move forward,” Deuman said. “It went very well; we had lots of community feedback. The community said this very much has to be a community-led and community-engaged process. The last six months was about the community really digging into the data, digging into the research, and making these recommendations.”

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.