We've compiled more than 50 highlights of what's new this school year at Stark County's schools.

More than 56,000 students – enough bodies to fill the seats of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium twice — are heading back to school this month in Stark County.

A handful of districts already welcomed their students back to the classroom while most Stark County students will start school Wednesday. 

The Canton Repository contacted the leaders of each Stark County traditional public school district, the county career technical center and the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities to find out what's new for this school year.

More than 50 highlights are listed below.  Click on the names of the school districts to view additional highlights and photos.

Alliance

– Success Academy. The district has partnered with the University of Mount Union, Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery and Alliance City Hospital to provide an alternative school for students whose needs are beyond what the district can provide in a traditional school setting. At the Alliance Neighborhood Center, students will be placed in smaller classes and paired with teachers, therapists and mental health counselors as needed.

– Principal shuffle. Northside Intermediate Principal Portia Clay is the new principal of Success Academy. Stephanie Garren, principal at Parkway Elementary, will succeed Clay as Northside’s principal and Cory Muller will take over as Parkway’s principal. Troy Russell, who has been assistant principal at Alliance Middle School, is moving up to become principal of the school. He is replacing Jason Dixon, who has been named director of student services.

– Foreign languages added. Middle school students now will have the option of taking French as a foreign language as well as Spanish. Alliance High School has added American Sign Language as one of its foreign language offerings.

– LPN program added. The Adult Education program at the Alliance Career Centre will begin offering a full-time, one-year licensed practical nursing program to complement the part-time, two-year option that it currently provides.

Canton City 

– Redesigned floor. The Canton Memorial Field House floor has been redesigned and refurbished for the first time in roughly 12 years. The parquet floor features the traditional Field House insignia at center court and the logos of McKinley, Lehman, Lincoln and Timken high schools at each corner.

– Different college entrance exam. Juniors will take the SAT — instead of the ACT — for free this spring. Last year, Canton City, as well as most other Ohio schools, elected to give juniors the ACT to fulfill the state requirement of administering a college entrance exam to juniors for free during the school day. Canton City officials said the district chose the SAT this year because it not only provides college entrance scores that are accepted at colleges and universities across the country like the ACT, but the SAT also releases its April test with the questions and scoring justifications, which the ACT does not. All eighth-graders, freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be given the preliminary SAT in October for free. Students also will be given access to free lessons and learning activities through Khan Academy that focus on areas where they struggled.

– Capstone courses added. McKinley will offer Advanced Placement Capstone courses, after piloting the program last year. Through AP Seminar and AP Research, students will investigate topics of their choosing from multiple perspectives, learn to collect and analyze information, develop arguments and learn how to effectively communicate them. McKinley is one of 15 high schools in Ohio to offer the AP Capstone courses.

– More iPads. All McKinley students will receive an iPad to use for assignments, research and projects at school and at home. The district purchased 1,800 iPads for students and trained teachers on how to incorporate the technology into their lessons. Last year, only freshmen received a device.

Canton Local

– New high school. Canton South students will get their first chance to explore their long-awaited new high school. They will find classrooms that reflect a more college-like atmosphere, with high- and low-top tables, booths and other more comfortable seating that will allow them to more easily problem solve and talk in small groups. The 182,000-square-foot linear building now includes designated spaces for science labs, digital video, art, engineering labors and a design center that replaces the traditional library by also including equipment for distance learning and that makes project and group work easier. The school also includes a 900-seat auditorium with separate spaces for band and choir and the new Red Ash gymnasium. District officials plan to open the walking and running track that sits above the gym to the community later this year. See a video of inside the new classrooms, auditorium and weight room here: Canton South High School.

– New security. The district has installed a visitor management software system at each of its schools. Visitors still will be required to present a valid driver’s license or other state-issued identification at the door, but now the ID will be scanned and checked against the sexual offender database. Cleared visitors will receive a printed ID badge with their photo and name. After 12 hours, a red stop sign will bleed through to the front of the badge, rendering it unusable. The district estimates the process to scan an ID, run the check and print a badge will take roughly 30 seconds to complete.

– No more assistant superintendent. Tricia Couts-Everett has been named the director of curriculum and instruction, replacing the position of assistant superintendent. Couts-Everett has been with Canton Local for three years serving as a middle school teacher and instructional design coach.

– New math materials. Canton Local students will see a new curriculum for math this year that will ensure that all students are learning the same content and that teachers are using common terms and techniques to prepare students for the future grade levels.

Fairless

– LifeReady badges. Fairless seniors can earn a LifeReady badge on their permanent transcript by participating in a series of daylong workshops at which they will learn from working professionals, state and local leaders, educators and members of the armed forces and trade unions about the characteristics and skills that are needed to be successful regardless of career field. Upon completion of the program, students would be eligible to earn badges for emotional intelligence, creativity and conflict resolution.

– New STEM. Middle school students will learn about computer coding and machine functions while gaining problem-solving and teamwork skills through a new three-year science, technology, engineering and math program that begins with LEGO robotics. For the 2018-2019 school year, when the new sixth-graders begin LEGO robotics, the then-seventh- and eighth-grade students will move on to learn about agricultural science, including agriculture’s role in the Stark County community, greenhouse activities and soil components. In the third year of the program, students will learn about medical innovation, including using 3D technology for prosthetic designs and the role that science and technology play in helping to improve human life. Each year of the STEM program also will include an elective class where students will learn how to take the STEM skills, such as building a robot, and apply it to a future job.

– Art is back. Visual art classes are returning to the elementary and middle schools. The district has hired a full-time art teacher for the elementary and a part-time teacher for the middle school. The classes were cut several years ago due to strained finances.

Jackson

– New principals. Assistant Jackson High School Principal Kacy Carter is returning to Jackson Memorial Middle School as its principal. Carter’s first five years at Jackson were as a middle school social studies teacher. Matt Ziders is leaving the field of teaching and coaching to become an assistant principal at Jackson High School. He was the district’s head swimming coach for the past nine years and has taught math at both the middle school and high school.

– New roles, new faces. Harley Neftzer, the district’s transportation supervisor and security director, is the district’s new building and grounds supervisor. Neftzer, retired Jackson Township police chief and former Ohio Highway Patrol lieutenant, will retain the title of security director. Eli Rivera, who retired from the Ohio Highway Patrol, where he had conducted bus inspections as part of his job, has been hired as the district’s transportation supervisor and assistant security director.

– Chromebooks are here. Students in grades 5, 6, 8 and 9 will receive a Chromebook to use for their assignments in the classroom and at home. This is the first of a three-year phase-in of the devices, and district officials expect all students to be using a laptop or tablet in the classroom by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Lake

– Condensed calendar. Lake students started classes a week earlier than usual and will see shorter breaks this school year due to the ongoing construction at its elementary, middle and high schools. The condensed calendar means students’ last day will be May 18 with graduation held on May 19, and it will give workers 15 weeks next summer to finish construction of the new elementary school for grades second through sixth and the expansion of the middle school and high school as well as give the district time to move in as nearly every Lake teacher will be moving to a new classroom. See a video of Lake Elementary taking shape here: Lake Elementary.

– Expanded partnership. The district’s partnership with Goodyear’s Airship Operations at Wingfoot Lake is expanding. Not only will students in Lake’s Advanced Placement science class get to program Goodyear blimp’s video messaging board as it flies over the stadium during Lake’s homecoming game, but they also will work with Goodyear engineers to develop a small-scale zeppelin that will fly with the blimp during the homecoming game on Sept. 22.

– New roles. Former Hartville Principal Jeffrey S. Breit is now the district’s business manager and will oversee transportation, custodial and food services as well as business-related transactions such as purchasing and liability insurance. Middle School Assistant Principal Julie Lyberger will succeed 
Breit at Hartville Elementary and teacher Adam Booth will become the new middle school assistant principal.

– OSU skull session. The Lake High School band will participate in the Ohio State University’s marching band skull session on Oct. 28. The popular pep rally will start roughly two hours before the football team’s kickoff against Penn State.

Louisville

– Leopard Tech team. Louisville High School has launched a new student technician program to help keep school devices and network functioning efficiently. Leopard Tech team students will be available at a help desk housed in the library office. Students on the tech team will receive training through an online course and will have the opportunity to earn a Comp TIA certification.

– New faces. Terrie Horn, formerly a math teacher and athletic director at North Canton Middle School, is the district’s new high school athletic director. Doug Haines, who has roughly 30 years’ experience in supervisory positions with Fisher Foods, is the district’s new transportation director. Matthew Stanley, who has taught for Tuscarawas Valley, Plain Local and Canton City schools, is the new assistant principal at Louisville Elementary.

– New spirit rock. A large rock that can be painted for school spirit activities was donated to the district in memory of John Rill, who taught at Louisville between 1974 and 2006 and coached football for 40 years, wrestling for 32 years and track for 32 years. The rock came from Rill’s farm in Salem.

– Chromebooks at LHS. All high school students will receive a Chromebook this year to use during and after school hours. Students in grades 5-8 previously had received the web-based devices.

Marlington

– Turf upgrade. Marlington has moved from a grass football field to an artificial turf that district officials have emphasized will be accessible to other groups include the baseball, softball, track, cross country and soccer teams as well as the band. A large orange “M” sits at midfield while the word “Dukes” colored in orange and white stands out from the black-colored end zones. The roughly $600,000 project was coordinated and partly funded by the Athletic Booster Club.

– Renovations. The high school’s Digital Learning Zone (library) has been updated with new paint colors, ceiling, flooring and furniture. The science rooms at the middle school also will be upgraded.

– Water on the way. Construction has begun to build a waterline from the city of Alliance to the middle and high schools campus. District officials have said past problems with high lead readings from the middle school’s well prompted the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Massillon

– New faces, new roles. Paul Salvino is the new principal of Washington High School. Salvino, a 1997 Washington High School graduate, had served as principal of Jackson Memorial Middle School since 2010 and previously spent five years in administration at Claymont High School. He also spent three years teaching seventh-grade science and social studies in Massillon. Kristina Blair, who had been an elementary teacher in Massillon for 15 years and the district’s gifted coordinator since 2013, is now the curriculum director. Mike Dobran, former principal of Garfield High School in Portage County and who previously coached baseball and taught math at Massillon, has taken over as the district’s testing coordinator. Amy Hollingsworth, the district’s technology integration specialist, has taken on the role of Massillon Digital Academy’s director.

– Girls golf team. For the first time, Massillon has a girls golf team. Championed by Massillon senior Gia Hatheway, the team is comprised of roughly eight girls. Brooke Morgan, a former Walsh University golfer, is the team’s coach.

– New reading series. Students from kindergarten to fifth grade will begin using Pearson Education's ReadyGEN Literacy program, which is designed to support students’ developing literacy skills and provides various opportunities for students to complete questions and tasks in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Students from sixth to eighth grade will begin working with Pearson’s myPerspectives English language arts curriculum, which gives students a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts that span time periods and cultures and provides activities that are designed to provoke idea-sharing, discussion and debate.

Minerva

– Star Room. Minerva Elementary this year will unveil its Star Room, a sensory room for students who benefit from stimulation of light, sounds or touch. The room, partially funded through the Love, Andrew Autism Foundation, includes mood lighting, a ball pit, weight blankets and a wall with a waterfall of colors.

– Positive behaviors recognized. Minerva Elementary has established the Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports behavior program, which encourages good behavior rather than relying on punishment for bad behavior so that students will learn that positive behaviors are more effective for them. The school has been recognized by the Ohio Department of Education as a PBIS Bronze school.

– Grading changes. The middle school has established standards-based grading and intervention practices, which means students will be assessed on their mastery of a learning target rather than be given a traditional letter grade that averaged a series of scores from throughout the grading period. School officials say the new grading method will allow teachers to more easily identify the skills that students have not mastered and make the necessary adjustments to their teaching.

North Canton

– New food app. The district has launched an interactive meal menu website, which also is available to download as a phone app, that allows parents and students to view the ingredients, calories, sugar and allergen information of the food being served at each school. Users also can filter the foods by allergens. To view the site, visit www.northcantonschools.org/Menus1.aspx and click on the link for the “Interactive Meal Menu Calendars” near the bottom of the page.

– New faces. Denise Cooley has been hired as the district’s gifted and talented coordinator. The former Indian Valley Middle School teacher has served as gifted coordinator, grant writer and led English language arts training for teachers at the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center since 2015. Janet Peare was hired Wednesday to the part-time position of dean of students at the middle school where she will oversee discipline and attendance. Peare also will serve as the middle school athletic director. 

– New learning resources. The district is piloting Pearson Education’s myPerspectives digital English language arts curriculum in grades six, seven and eight. Students will be given a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts that span time periods and cultures and participate in activities that are designed to provoke idea-sharing, discussion and debate.

– New website. The district redesigned its website at www.northcantonschools.org after parents surveys over the past two years indicated a need for better communication. The website now features calendars of upcoming district and school events.

Northwest

– Girls golf team. For the first time, Northwest has a girls golf team. Coached by Kim Boggs, who also is a computer science teacher at the high school, the team includes eight players.

– Added courses. High school students can enroll in additional nutrition and sports nutrition courses as well as take English and Spanish for college credit.

– Full-time. Jason Hathaway takes over as the district’s athletic director full time this year. Hathway, who served as co-athletic director last school year, spent 25 years as a teacher at Perry High School and has coached at the varsity level for Perry, Jackson, Lake, Massillon as well as other districts. Sam Birone also is starting his first full year as the district’s transportation director. Birone, who previously worked as the senior transportation manager for Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities, was hired in March following the death of bus coordinator Ray Gesaman.

Osnaburg

– Foltz Stadium. A new artificial turf field, seven-lane polyurethane running track and new scoreboard have been installed at the newly dubbed Foltz Stadium, named after major donors Kathy and Dwain Foltz. The $1.13 million project, funded largely through community donations and volunteers, began after a community member voiced concerns in May 2016 that the deterioration of the track posed a safety hazard. The district will hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting for Foltz Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25, just before the 7 p.m. kickoff of the Hornets’ first home varsity football game. See a video of the new facility here: Foltz Stadium.

– Latchkey program. The district has partnered with the Louisville Area YMCA to offer a before-school and after-school program for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The program, which has a weekly fee, will be held in the school library and will include guided homework help, group games, arts and crafts, as well as activities focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Parents also can take their children to the Louisville YMCA for activities on days Louisville schools are closed.

– Expanded STEM. Using a grant, the district plans to expand its science, technology, engineering and math program to the lower elementary grades. Many STEM lessons introduce students to a problem or project and challenges them to work with others to solve it using the science and math concepts they learned.

Perry

– Career and wellness center. The district hopes to open its new $3.5 million career and wellness center in January. The single-story, 37,500-square-foot addition to the high school will house the culinary arts program, including a student-run restaurant, large gymnasium with two courts, locker rooms, indoor walking track and a community room. Construction crews are expected to begin erecting the steel for the facility’s frame during the second week of September. Until the building is ready, Perry’s culinary students will use the kitchen at the Eagles Club. Tom Ryan, who retired in July as the district’s assistant superintendent, will serve as the director of the career and wellness center to coordinate the many school and community activities that are expected to be planned at the facility.

– A device of their own. All Perry High School students are receiving their own Toshiba laptop and case for school assignments. The Chromebooks that the high school students previously shared will be used by middle school students, who are expected to receive their own laptops next school year.

– New assistant superintendent. Nathan Stutz, principal at Dalton High School since 2014, is the district’s new assistant superintendent. Stutz, an Ashland University graduate, began his career at South Central High School in Greenwich and became a high school science teacher at Dalton in 2003. Stutz also served as Dalton’s varsity boys basketball coach for 10 years.

Plain

– New music production course. Juniors and seniors can enroll in a two-year music production career technical course that will teach students techniques they can use in a home or professional studio. The course will include training in voice and traditional and electronic instruments as well as lessons on the business side of music, covering topics such as copyright laws and creating budgets and contracts. 

– Upgraded food menu site and new app. To help ease parents’ concerns about their child’s food allergies while at school, the district has launched an interactive meal menu website – and accompanying phone app – that provides the ingredients, calories, sugar and allergen information for each food served in each school building. Visit www.plshealthymeals.org and click on “Menus” on the left side of the page to view the menus and expanded nutritional information.

– New partnership. The district has developed a school psychologist internship program with Youngstown State University where one of the university’s psychology students will work at Plain for a year. District officials said the partnership helps staff meet potential candidates for a job that often can be difficult to fill, while giving students a year of on-the-job experience.

– New locker rooms. Roughly 100 new lockers and nearly 3,000 square feet of space will welcome football, soccer and lacrosse teams at Bob Commings Field. The locker rooms, funded largely by the Golden Eagle Athletic Association, have been built on either side of the stadium main entrance. They replace the locker rooms inside GlenOak High School, located roughly a tenth of a mile away from the stadium.

R.G. Drage Career Technical Center

– Welding lab renovation. As part of a $674,000 renovation, new welding booths with built-in multiprocessor welders that can perform multiple welds have been installed. Each booth will have gas plumbed in for high-efficiency welding, as well as LED lighting. A new ventilation system designed to reduce energy consumption and increase clean airflow also was installed for the welding lab, where instructors now have the ability to train and certify 100 students each year.

– Walk-ins replaced. Water-cooled walk-in refrigeration units from 1977 have been replaced with new refrigeration units that are expected to lower energy costs.

– New face. John DiMascio has been hired as an instructor for agricultural industrial equipment and horticulture. DiMascio, who holds a master’s degree in agronomy from Ohio State University, has taught turfgrass science at Myerscough College in England and in the Biology Department at Hiram College. He also has worked as the superintendent of the tournament course at Firestone Country Club and as assistant superintendent of the Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina.

Sandy Valley

– New pianos. The district has purchased three new pianos for its fine arts program. A Boston Performance Edition grand piano now sits in the performing arts hall. The district also purchased an ebony Boston upright and a Yamaha piano.

– New reading materials. For the first time in 15 years, elementary teachers will use a new reading series. Pearson’s ReadyGEN Literacy is designed to support students’ developing literacy skills and provides various opportunities for students to complete questions and tasks in reading, writing, speaking and listening while also offering teachers resources and tools to gauge student understanding of the content.

– Double dose of math. Fifth-graders will take 40 minutes of fifth-grade math and 40 minutes of sixth-grade math. Accelerated students then will take the state math assessments at the higher grade level. District officials believe the program will help students transition to the higher-level math courses once they enter high school.

– New partnership. Sandy Valley High School has partnered with Teen Leadership Corp, a Strongsville-based academic service leadership organization, to enhance the curriculum for its community service course, which is a high school elective that features the “Flock” program in which students read daily to elementary students.

Stark DD schools

– New sidewalk. A concrete sidewalk that is wide for wheelchairs and includes a cement pad under a tent to protect students from the sun or inclement weather has been installed in a student area outside Rebecca Stallman Southgate School. The area previously contained only dirt and was not handicap friendly. Raised planter beds also have been installed in the area so students more easily can reach the garden beds to sow and care for their plants.

– Returning home. Six students who previously attended Stark DD’s school programs are returning to their home school districts this school year as Stark DD staff continue to help staff in the home districts keep their students with disabilities with their peers.

– New faces. Three new intervention specialists and a new physical therapist will join the school staff this year. The new employees are replacing staff who left the district.

Tuslaw

– Workforce partnership. Tuslaw High School is participating in a pilot program with the WestStark Chamber of Commerce. A group of high school students who are not headed to college or the military and have chosen not to participate in a career technical course will explore workforce opportunities in the community. Students will take field trips, job shadow and learn about required training for certain careers to help define their goals for after high school.

– College credits. The district has partnered with Kent State University at Stark to provide more college-level courses on campus.

– Facelift. New paint, new bleacher wraps and new banners featuring the district’s Mustang mascot are being added at the football stadium and throughout the school’s campus. The updates were paid through donations from past student classes, booster clubs and community members.

Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.weir@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @kweirREP