Opening in January on the old Cass High School campus as a resource facility for home school students and students needing an alternative to the traditional high school learning environment, Superintendent John Harper and Director Larry Parker say they want the center also to serve as a community resource, helping to educate "workers, not takers" in Bartow County. This would include having local business, industry and postsecondary education access for students at the center as well as call for greater involvement in the development of the facility from these areas.
"We use [online learning] and every one of our 40 kids has personalized learning," Parker said of the learning center. "Their previous home school or home school counselor determined what class they need to take, and so its worked real well."
While students have instant access to teachers, raising one's hand is not the precursor for asking a question.
"The teachers are not on site. They do have certified teachers they talk to on headphones and email on a daily basis," Parker said. "A teacher might email and say, 'I need to talk to you at 10 [a.m.] on Friday,' and so they have to have their headphones on at that time."
There are 19 students on the waiting list and out of the 40 students enrolled, 17 are home school students.
"What I want to do, and what I hope happens is we have summer school here, and if we have summer school here we can pick up some of these kids that need one or two credits to graduate and hopefully give them the opportunity to graduate as soon as possible," Parker said.
The College and Career Academy Advisory Committee met for the first time at the facility.
"I can stand here and talk all day long about the need, we know we have it, but without your support by coming to these meetings and making this process happen, and working through the state of Georgia to get the finances here, to get the business and industry here tied with us to provide opportunities for kids who don't want what we have to offer in a traditional high school, then it isn't going to work," Harper said to the committee.
Parker said he and Harper also met Friday morning with counselors from all county schools.
"We wanted them to make sure to know exactly what's going on and what to start looking for in those children that for whatever reason need a different avenue to get their education," Parker said.
The system is working with Educational Consultant Russ Moore to help develop the center in terms of funding and community involvement.
"I work as a consultant all over the state of Georgia, and some other states, and most of my work is focused on this process that follows a state approved process that started in Coweta County ... and what it does ... is it combines the public education sectors -- K-12 and college -- and it brings the business community in, and the parents, seamlessly, to be part of not just the design of the curriculum, but also the governance of the school, and that's very different," Moore said. "There are results that come from that kind of connection, especially the private sector coming right into the classroom, right to the design of the curriculum throughout the school and the way the school is designed itself as part of the school system, if you want to call it a 'virus' it infects the rest of the local schools and the system."
Community member Bryan Canty asked what the facility means for students who excel academically yet struggle with the traditional high school setting.
"This school can enroll any student in Bartow County, at any level," Moore said.
Frank Pinson, chief executive officer of the Floyd County College and Career Academy, offered his input.
"We serve all students. We serve students who are earning honors' credits at our schools, we serve students with special needs," Pinson said. "In the last two years we've had students who graduate from our school and got admitted to [The United States Military Academy at West Point], so that gives you an example of the students we serve, we serve all students. It's not just merely for those students who want specific, technical training, it's all about postsecondary [education]."
Parker said providing more access for students will in turn be an asset to the community.
"We have to make things like dual enrollment as available and convenient as possible for these kids and the Bartow Learning Center is being remodeled to hopefully make sure that happens, because it sure would be nice to get a year of college out of the way and paid for, and that obviously would be a great advantage to the student when it only takes him three years to graduate college and it saves the parents a bit of money," Parker said. "... We're going to have to do something for our work force, that's all there is to it.
"There are lots [of businesses] who need to have their input in what we're doing to attract more industry into our county and to make sure we're up to date with what it takes for these young people when they graduate to get a very nice job."