- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - Neighborhood schools will return to Youngstown under the plan being released Wednesday by an appointed chief executive officer charged with improving the city’s struggling school district.

CEO Krish Mohip believes placing children back in buildings closest to where they live will increase parental involvement crucial to student success, he told The Vindicator of Youngstown (https://bit.ly/2pRNVyi ). It’s among changes contained in Mohip’s district reconfiguration plan.

“When we complain about parents not showing up and parental involvement, we have to consider that it’s really hard for them transportation-wise when their kids’ schools are on the other side of the city,” he told the newspaper. “This is about getting the kids as close as possible to their schools.”

Youngstown’s is the first district in Ohio subject to a divisive school district takeover law passed in 2015, which allows Republican Gov. John Kasich to appoint CEOs with broad restructuring powers to step in and take charge of failing school districts.

Mohip said the neighborhood school proposal emerged from community input meetings, discussions with his leadership team and teacher and principal surveys.

Specifically, it places students in prekindergarten through eighth grade into one of nine school buildings closest to their homes, then splits the district into two high school regions.

Mohip said all 14 principals who responded to a survey expressed willingness to publicly support the reconfiguration. He said he simply expects “people to give it a chance,” which 83 percent of principals said they are willing to do for five years.

The plan also addresses findings of a recent Ohio Department of Education audit that found Youngstown schools were not providing an equitable education across the district.

A majority of the district’s special programs are located on the city’s West side. Under the reconfiguration, each school will be equipped with special programs, including STEM pathways, foreign language options, sports teams, fine arts, physical education, technology classes and access to Chromebooks.

“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.”

He said the plan will also reduce transition time between elementary and middle school and allow seventh and eighth graders to act as mentors for younger children.

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