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Grant for new charter school in Cumming detailed
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CUMMING — More details emerged Thursday about the potential work force development academy the school system wants to bring to Forsyth County with the help of the two local governments and post-secondary outlets.

While most of the $18 million to $22 million needed for the charter school would come through the Forsyth County Public Facilities Authority, the school district is applying for a $3 million grant through the lieutenant governor’s office.

Senate Bill 161, which was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May 2011, designated a fund to support the opening of college and career academies throughout Georgia.

The goal was to create a “specialized charter school established by a partnership [that] demonstrates a collaboration between business, industry and community stakeholders to advance work force development between one or more local board of education, a private individual, a private organization or a state or local public entity in cooperation with one or more post-secondary institutions.”

To be eligible for this grant, the school system must become partners with the local campuses of Lanier Technical College and/or the University of North Georgia.

It must also be chartered, a draft of which is due with the application by Sept. 11.

School district officials noted the new academy would not duplicate the curriculum taught at any existing school. While every public high school has a specialized career pathway — engineering, medical sciences, communications, etc. — those at the academy would focus on high-demand, high-paying high-tech jobs.

A draft of potential curriculums — to serve up to 1,000 high school students — includes aeronautics, drone technology, energy, health care science, mechatronics, law and wireless communications.

A public survey for students, parents, teachers and business community members will be available starting Monday.

“We know where the growth is, but we want to make sure student interest is there, too,” said Valery Lowe, director of work force development for the school district.

The grant application process also requires the district to lay out plans for the school’s sustainability, dual-enrollment access, work-based learning opportunities and budget, among other aspects.

Lowe explained ideas of bringing a community “makerspace” lab to the academy, which would be centrally located, possibly in Cumming.

Modeled after the Georgia Tech Invention Studio, students would have the opportunity to invent, explore, create and build by using modern equipment they usually don’t have access to.

She also said a goal is to bring a Discovery Center to the space through the grant. This would create a mini-marketplace of local businesses, where younger students could visually understand what working in each company would entail.

“There’s no national model for this type of school,” Lowe said, “this closely tied to post-secondary education.”