Students from neighboring school districts consider how their school environments affect their learning experiences

By Sofia Imitola ‘21 and Ayah Elsheikh ‘20

With colder weather approaching, students’ days will be filled with joy for the holidays and stress for upcoming midterms. However, the students just across the Olentangy River have a completely different set of worries. At Columbus Alternative High School, along with worries of academics, they have to think about how they’re going to stay warm during class.

Columbus Alternative High School senior Emma Crossman. Image courtesy of Emma Crossman

Columbus Alternative High School senior Emma Crossman. Image courtesy of Emma Crossman

“Layers? An essential,” says Emma Crossman, a senior at Columbus Alternative HS.

She has become immune to the allegedly unpredictable nature of her school, but still doesn’t understand why it must be like this.

Recently, Columbus City Schools have been put under a microscope due to the district being classified by the Ohio Department of Education as ‘under Academic Distress’. This has raised many questions for people in and out of the district about the current and future conditions of schools like Crossman’s.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Columbus City Schools received “an overall F” on its state report card. On its website, the Columbus City Schools “District Transparency” page explains that if CCS cannot change its current report card grade in the next three years, the district may be taken over by, “a state mandated Academic Distress commission.”

Crossman said though she was not aware of the placement of her school under Academic Distress, she wasn’t surprised.

“Personally I think [Columbus Alternative High School] has really good grades and really good test scores,” Crossman said.“But there are some schools where kids can get by with a 2.0. For us, 3.5 is the standard, and that’s really high for some other schools.”

For Crossman’s fellow students, the general district test scores and numbers are not at all indicative of their experience.

“The standard is that you excel,” she said. “If you excel, you’re not super special and if you’re failing then you’re not trying, you don’t want to be there, you don’t want to work for it.”

UAHS sophomore Pierce Thompson. Photo by Ayah Elsheikh

UAHS sophomore Pierce Thompson. Photo by Ayah Elsheikh

This testimony is similar that of UAHS sophomore Pierce Thompson, who said he feels UA students are expected to excel in all of their coursework.

“Everyone is high achieving,” Thompson said. “You really need to put effort in because there are just higher standards here in Upper Arlington.”

While the two schools have academic excellence in common, the physical state of both are starkly different.

Crossman said a lot of her resources are either old, damaged or both. She shared an instance in which her Spanish teacher had to replace his own desk chair when it broke. “Teachers shouldn’t have to spend their own money to make their classrooms comfortable for themselves,” she said.


Considering the difference in size of the two districts, the ratio of expenditures between CCS and UA Schools are fairly unequal, with CCS only spending about 5 times more than UA.

Data courtesy of and Graphic by Ayah Elsheikh

Data courtesy of CCS Transparency Report and UA Quality Profile
Graphic by Sofia Imitola


Crossman said, “We don’t have heat or AC, the only way we get heat is from the boilers. Most of our classrooms are freezing during the winter and boiling during the summer…. It affects my learning because it’s very distracting, all you can think about is how uncomfortable you are and how much you want to go home.”

In response to the same question regarding the environment at UAHS, Thompson said, “I’ve never even thought about that.”

Crossman suspects that the district assumes that since Columbus Alternative High School is high achieving and has good test scores that they don’t need a new school. “I just don’t see [a new school] happening anytime soon,” she said.

In contrast, Thompson looks towards a bright future for his school in the upcoming years.

“I think we need a new school… and I mean we got that levy passed so I think it’s a good thing that we’re getting a new school.”

Thompson is also aware of the circumstances that come with the benefits of his school environment. “We’re affected only by our community,” he said, “while other schools are affected by all of Columbus.”

Crossman explained how those benefits do not reach her side of the spectrum, as some students can’t afford school cancellation. The cafeteria is where they could be getting the meals that aren’t always provided at home.


In the year 2017, Columbus City Schools served both breakfast and lunch to students on a daily basis.
Data Courtesy of the CCS Digital Dashboard



Crossman retains faith in the will of the students to succeed academically, just not the physical state of the school.

“I do hope that one day people will realize that these kids are working their butts off to get these scores and grades and it’ll pay off. Hopefully, in the future, kids will get what they deserve. A good school.