BVHS students each lunch Thursday morning during the start of the school year.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

The 2023-2024 school year began for Buckeye Valley Local Schools students Thursday, and administrators said they believe it’s going to be a great year for the district.

Superintendent Paul Craft was touring buildings in the district Thursday and said his goal was to walk past every classroom at every building on the first day.

Craft said the district had a “smooth” first day of the school year despite being down three bus drivers. He said the shortage is not a local problem but one across the county. He said that due to the shortage, students will be on longer bus routes than the district would like, but they are hoping that as they adjust the routes, they will reduce the times and fill the positions as soon as possible.

There are several changes at BV this year, Craft said, including the new opt-in Fifth Grade Academy, which moved about half of the district’s fifth graders to the middle school instead of their elementary school to combat overcrowding and give more academic opportunities to the fifth graders.

“It’s (off to) a great start,” Craft said Thursday morning after having toured the academy. “It’s another track where kids and families are raising their hands and saying, ‘I will take on some more challenges. Give me higher level requirements.’ I’m very excited for that. If we had not done that, we could not fit our elementary (students)… we would not have enough classrooms.”

Craft said enrollment in the district went up by between 60-65 students or 3%, and the district is anticipating that level of growth year over year for the next decade.

Another new initiative at the district is a revamped reading curriculum K-12, Craft said.

He said the lower grades will focus more on phonics and phonemic awareness. Craft added there has been a focus on linking social studies and English at the high school level and reinforcing each subject by having students read more documents related to early American history.

“(We want to create) much more conscious connections between what we do in social studies and what we’re doing in English class,” Craft said.

Brian Orrenmaa, director of academic achievement, said the district is ahead on the governor’s new initiatives for reading and dyslexia screenings.

“I’m excited about all the new things we have in place this year to help our kids and teachers,” Orrenmaa said. “Our focus is on supporting them. It’ll be a good year.”

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Specialist Jackie Noel said she’s looking forward to the more specialized courses at the high school.

“I’m excited to work with the teachers. It’s fun to see teachers getting excited for these new programs, too,” Noel said. “It’s a good change for our district.”

Craft said the district’s focus remains on growing “every kid.”

“That informs so many of our decisions,” Craft said. “(We are) making sure we’ve got buildings that are welcoming. We want every kid to feel welcome, safe, and loved to grow every kid to the maximum.”

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.