Two girls walking on a sidewalk
Two students walk in to Ashland Middle School for the first day on Aug. 23, 2023.

ASHLAND — Ashland City Schools started its academic year Wednesday morning with students returning to classrooms. 

A father and his son walk into the Ashland Middle School on the first day of the 2023-2024 academic year, Aug. 23, 2023. Students started arriving at the middle school around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Pupils arrived at the middle school and high school at about 7:30 a.m. donning new clothes. Sixth and ninth graders had orientation on Tuesday ahead of everyone’s start Wednesday morning. 

At the elementary schools, students started pouring through the doors around 8:30 a.m. 

Reagan Elementary School had separate entries set up for students in different grade levels, and teachers and administrators stood out front helping students find their classrooms. 

Siblings entered the front doors of the school, sometimes in matching outfits and often holding hands. Teachers told the older siblings to help their younger ones find the school cafeteria. Students hoisted bags full of school supplies in with them, too.

Brothers walk into the front entrance of Reagan Elementary School on Aug. 23, 2023. Teachers and school administrators stood outside directing students to their classrooms and telling older siblings to help their younger ones find destinations for the day.

According to superintendent Steve Paramore — who starts his first full year in the job this academic year — the district’s goal is continuing to educate students at a high level.

How will the district do this?

Paramore, who served as an assistant principal and as Ashland City Schools’ business manager before stepping into the role of superintendent, said a part of meeting that goal is bridging the COVID gap. 

The COVID-19 learning gap, a well-documented international phenomenon, refers to drops in test scores during and after the pandemic. Some studies show these drops have been more pronounced in more impoverished areas, too. 

A teacher at Reagan Elementary School greets one of the students on Aug. 23, 2023.

Ashland City Schools has largely made up that gap at the elementary level, according to state testing data. The percentage of students proficient in English and mathematics in 2021-2022 in third through fifth grade showed an improvement over the percentage of students proficient in the 2018-2019 school year. The 2018-2019 school year is the last pre-COVID testing data available for the elementary level from the Ohio Department of Education. 

The middle school has not seen those gains, however. Sixth through eighth grade students on the whole had lower percentages of proficiency during the 2021-2022 school year than the 2018-2019 one.

At the high school level, proficiency has increased since the 2019-2020 school year, but still falls below the level of proficiency during the 2018-2019 academic year pre-COVID. 

Paramore said the district will place a focus on writing this year. He also said the district will implement a new language arts curriculum and math curriculum this year.

The math curriculum is called “Into Math,” and the district will also use the same brand for its language arts curriculum. 

“Into Reading” will serve as the third through fifth grade curriculum, and “Into Literature” will be used at the sixth through eighth grade level, according to Paramore. “My Perspectives” will be used at the high school level for language arts. 

At the high school level, Paramore said there’s also a commitment to common-form assessments. Groups of teachers who all teach the same grade-level or subject create that kind of assessment. 

“We have a keen focus on collaboration,” Paramore said. “This peer development we’ve had before the school year has really been peer-led.”

Staff leading the way

The district hired 32 new staff members over the summer, Paramore said. Last week, teachers came together for a rally and professional development days ahead of the school year. 

“It’s an exciting time for our staff,” Paramore said. 

Students were greeted by staff outside of Reagan Elementary School on Aug. 23, 2023 as they walked in for the first day of school.

He added there was a lot of positive feedback from the staff about the professional development days. 

In addition to the 32 new hires this summer, Paramore said the district also brought on an administrative intern this year. 

“It’s an idea other school districts have used,” Paramore said, noting that position has existed for a few years in Wooster. 

He said the district’s administrative intern will work at the elementary schools this year. The position offers an opportunity to get administrative experience. 

Paramore said he’s also excited about Wendy Packard taking over as Ashland Middle School’s assistant principal. He said she worked as a guidance counselor there for years before taking the job. 

Taft Elementary School also has a new assistant principal joining its ranks, with Tim Keller shuffling from the middle school to the elementary school. 

“We have great coaches. We have great teachers,” Paramore said. “I’m excited for our families to send their students somewhere where those students will be nurtured and cared about.”

What else is new?

Paramore encouraged families to engage with Ashland City Schools’ website for updates about the school year. He highlighted the website’s use of an AI chatbot, something he said is new. 

He also said families should enroll for free and reduced lunches if eligible. 

The high school saw installation of exterior windows and doors over the summer. 

The district will also break ground on its new maintenance building this year. The board of education approved construction of that building in July. It’s costing the district $358,800.

The next board of education meeting will be at Ashland City Schools’ administrative office on Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m.

The Education section is brought to you by Ashland Family YMCA.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...