Columbus School District is ready to dive into the next three years of its Launching a New Legacy initiative.

Superintendent Annette Deuman outlined six priorities for 2019-2021, including an additional action plan to improve communication and outreach at the June 10 Columbus School Board meeting at City Hall. Columbus started the Launch initiative in the fall of 2016. Through the process, the district, with help from community members, outlined several key priorities it plans to meet by 2030.

Through Launching Forward, seven study teams formed last summer and developed recommendations to the board. In recent months, Columbus has formed Facilities Forward, which is the Community Facility Advisory team tasked with making a recommendation on the future of the district’s facilities.

“The process that we have started since 2016 has really been a fluid process,” Deuman said. “It’s not just the action plans and the work we did there, but we’ve added the study teams and recommendations and Facilities Forward. The next community action plans, from 2019-21, we really incorporate all of that work, that fluid process that we have to continue with our action plans.”

The first priority for the next three years is to create a community campus by building needed facilities and amenities. In the coming years, the district plans to keep working with the Facilities Advisory Committee, along with Bray Architects in determining how the community wants to improve the district’s facilities. The second action plan is to continue to investigate programming the district can offer, looking at a community campus model. The third action plan in priority one is to continue to work with the buildings and grounds staff to maintain Columbus’ current facilities, making sure they are safe for students and staff.

The second priority in Launching a New Legacy is to expand the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Agriculture and Math courses, which it began in January. The district is already offering more Maker Space STEAM courses and may add additional staff to facilitate those classes.

Priority No. 3 focuses on students’ social and emotional needs. Student Services Director Lisa Blochwitz said she will work with guidance staff this summer to create a more consistent plan to address student needs. Blochwitz said her staff will also work on better plans to support students’ mental health needs.

Priority No. 4 addresses curriculum changes. Deuman said there has been a lot of curriculum changes in the past year. She said Curriculum Director Becky Schmidt will be working on several updates to the district’s curriculum renewal and design course cycle. In co-curricular programs, Columbus plans to develop handbooks for coaches and instructors and build web pages for parents and students to access information.

“We’re going to track participation in all programs, not just athletics, and we’re going to conduct student surveys to make sure the needs and interests of our students are met,” Deuman said.

For the fifth priority, the district plans to strengthen community partnerships. Community Learning Director Cori Denk said Columbus could form an education for employment team.

“That would get people from the community, as well as MATC, parents and teachers, all together to figure out what sort of skills we need students to have moving forward,” Denk said. “We also want to explore other opportunities in our community and align our pathways to our curriculum and our courses and develop new courses as needed.”

The sixth priority focuses on sustaining up-to-date technology in Columbus schools, which includes several action plans laid out by Technology Director Chet Bembenek.

The seventh item Deuman mentioned was a plan to improve the district’s communication. In December, the community Communications and Outreach group recommended hiring a communications director. It doesn’t appear the district will follow that recommendation, but it does plan to implement a four-step public relations process. Bembenek and Deuman researched communications plans through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

“We’re going to be looking at other districts’ communication plans; we’re going to be looking at state and national organizations on public relations and we’re going to form a public relations committee that will involve parents, teachers, students and even non-parent community members,” Bembenek said. “From there, we’ll start to put together the plan, put a plan together, survey the community and staff and then come back and finalize the plan. Then the committee will determine how we’re going to keep this plan relevant, up-to-date and moving forward.”

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

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