Metro High Starts Fifth Year This Fall, Some Districts Opt-Out

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Last month, Metro Early College High School graduated its first class of seniors. The unconventional high school, that tailors its curriculum around science and math, will start its fifth year in the fall. WOSU reports many of the county’s school districts continue to eagerly send students to the alternative school, but a few have opted out of the program.

Mitchell Rhodes is like a lot of 18-year-olds going off to college in the fall.

“I still don’t know what my major is so I chose exploration. [I'm] still trying to figure out what I want to do,” he said.

Rhodes is headed to Ohio State University along with his former classmate Guadalupe Medina. They’re both recent graduates of Metro Early College High School. Both Rhodes and Medina have more than 50 college credit hours they earned while still in high school. That’s what Medina said drew her to Metro High on Kenny Road four years ago.

“That was the only thing because I’m not a “science-y” person. So, that did not attract my attention. But free college, I want that,” she said.

Metro Early College High School is a STEM school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But some districts are balking at future participation at Metro High. The school charges about $6,700 in tuition per student. And for some schools, the tuition has become a problem. Steve Estepp directs secondary education at the Hilliard City School District. He says the district decided to stop sending new students to Metro High last year. And in the middle of a recession, Estepp said funding played a role in the decision.

“Everything we’re doing we’re trying to use our dollars as efficiently as possible. And we took a look at the cost per pupil of you know, shifting money to our district to the [education] council at the Metro school, we just believe that for those dollars we could serve a greater number of students and provide the same type of experiences in our own school district,” Estepp said.

Most school districts in Franklin County have students taking classes at Metro High. Hamilton Local School District is an exception. Susan Witten directs teaching and learning at Hamilton Local. Witten said the district first wanted to see how Metro fared, but now it comes down to money.

“It’s an expensive program. You know, we have not passed a school levy since 1992. And so we have to very carefully marshal any funds we have and look at how we get the most out of every dollar,” Witten said.

Metro High is known for its rigorous curriculum and unconventional classes. By the time some students are juniors they’re taking mostly college courses and interning around the city at organizations like Battelle.

Marcy Raymond is the school’s principal. Raymond said Metro exceeded its expectations with the first graduating class.

“There are things we decided to never do again. There are things that we want to amplify and accelerate. I mean, the kids have been to China. They’ve been to Ghana. They’ve been to Costa Rica. They’ve been all over Ohio. They’ve been to Tennessee. They’ve been to California. They’ve visited colleges all over. They’re going to college. All of them are going to college. Those kinds of things are so important to the experience and exposure of students. I’m so thrilled. We’re thrilled,” Raymond.

It’s opportunities like those that Groveport Madison Superintendent Scott McKenzie said keeps his district sending students to Metro High. Groveport has about ten students attending the school.

“If we send a student to Metro there is a cost. We of course feel it is very reasonable. It provides programming for a few of our kids that we would have no way of providing at our high school,” McKenzie said.

Metro High gets some funding from Ohio State and Battelle. And Raymond said districts also provide funding.

“The heaviest load comes from the district,” she said.

Canal Winchester Local Schools offers students a chance to go to the school. But this year it instituted a new policy for future Metro students. District treasurer Joyce Boyer said under the new policy student’s parents will be responsible for some of the tuition. Boyer said the district funnels state pupil money to Metro High and parents pick up the balance – up to $4,000.

The change, Boyer said, is an effort to keep more local funds at the home district.

The news of districts not participating does not discourage Metro High Principal Marcy Raymond. She said other districts have created their own STEM programs since Metro’s inception. Columbus and Reynoldsburg City Schools soon will open STEM schools of their own.