Free lunches, intervention - 2022 highlights in Northwood schools

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The overarching goals of the Northwood Local School District last year were student achievement, student growth and student well being.
        “I always tell our staff it’s not always in that order,” said Northwood Local School Superintendent Jason Kozina, who spoke at a “State of the Communities” event recently in the Oregon Room at Mercy Health - St. Charles Hospital. “We have to do what we need to do for kids.”
        The annual event was sponsored by the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce.
        “One of the things we’ve been able to do is maintain the free lunches that were provided by the FDA during the couple of COVID-19 school years. The reimbursement for meals during those years was substantial enough that we basically built enough of a buffer so that we were able to continue that during this school year. That’s been a huge help to our families,” said Kozina.
        He doesn’t expect it to continue long-term, though.
        He urged the public to talk to their legislators about continued funding for the free lunches.
        “Students that come to school should get free breakfasts and lunches. That should be the way it is. It’s difficult for families in Northwood. About 60-percent of our students come from families with low socio-economic income. It’s difficult. It takes that burden off of them. If they can’t eat and they don’t have that nutrition when they come to school, it’s tough for them to learn,” said Kozina. “So we’re proud of being able to maintain that this year.”
        The district has received federal COVID-19 assistance, including Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, he said.
        “We turned all of that money back around into staff, who is helping with intervention and tutoring, and lower level students early childhood, and making sure we bring students who did have that learning loss back to where we need to be. We don’t put a ton of faith in State Report Cards, because I think one moment in time taking a test is not a fair assessment of any school district. However, we do take that data and learn from it,” he said.
        The district scored a five in the area of progress, data that was in the State Report Card, he said.
        “We were one of only two schools in Wood County to do that, one of only seven in Northwest Ohio out of about 72 school districts. So we think we have invested that money appropriately, we brought students back. We’re doing a great job with intervention. Our principals and staff have done a fantastic job with that.”
Solar power
        The district plans to have a solar field on its campus in the summer, he said.
        “It should power 35-percent of our K-12 building, which we are excited to see how that will all come to be. Not only that, but there’s an educational piece that goes with it. Our science department will be able to study the data, look at how it functions, what energy it will bring in. It’s going to be nice for our school district,” said Kozina.
        He noted the financial stability of the district.
        “Fiscal responsibility is always a big thing. Our last operating levy was in 2007. There are students who graduated from Northwood High School whose families never had to vote on an operating levy. That’s amazing. It’s also a testament to our city, which also helps the school district,” he said.
        Also, the district, for the fourth consecutive year, made the list of Top Work Places.
        “We’re very proud of our staff. They’re proud of what they do, and excited to be there. We have a fantastic staff,” he said.


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