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Big step for small school
Horizon gets SACS accreditation
Horizon Christian Academy student Ashley Pirkle solves a math problem on a whiteboard at the school. The school recently received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. - photo by Autumn McBride

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A Forsyth County private school recently received accreditation through the South’s premier school and college accrediting organization.

Horizon Christian Academy, which offers a kindergarten through 12th-grade curriculum, earlier this year received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.

While the school held accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools International, or ASCI, headmaster Heather Marshall said the SACS accreditation is important because most people respect that label.

“Really, the ASCI accreditation is more rigorous than SACS, but people know SACS and think of SACS as the main accrediting agency for colleges and schools,” she said.

“We knew what we were doing was really good, and [SACS accreditation] is kind of the confirmation that what we’re doing is even more than effective.”

The label also means graduates of the school shouldn’t have problems with credits when they start to college, since the association is the accrediting entity for public schools.

“Our parents have been impressed and thrilled that their kids’ transcripts will show [both] accreditations,” Marshall said.

To receive any accreditation is a rigorous process for schools.

Marshall said the SACS accreditation process took about a year to complete.

The process starts with a self-evaluation and ends with an on-site team visit from association members.

“It takes a lot of man hours,” Marshall said. “The self-study for any organization causes you to stop and focus on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and is it effective.”

Marshall said the school, which is in its 10th year, received several commendations from the reviewers.

Among them was recognition for the school’s individual performance plans for students.

The plans outline specific goals for each student based the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Three meetings with the student, parents and teachers are held each year to discuss the plans.

“The great thing about these plans are they address not just academics, but behavioral, social, emotional and spiritual growth of the student,” Marshall said. “And the student is at the center of the meetings and the plan.”

Other commendations received by the school related to its high level of parent involvement and enrollment growth despite the difficult economic times.

The school with its two campuses — kindergarten through sixth grade on Freedom Parkway and seventh through 12th grades on Canton Highway — has a student population of nearly 300.

“Bigger, more established schools typically have SACS accreditation,” Marshall said. “So it is pretty unique for a school our size to have it.”

SACS accredits schools, colleges and universities throughout the Southeast from Texas to Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.