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Partnership explored for college, career academy in Cumming
charter
In this file photo, students from Forsyth County high schools who were interested in possible careers in the health care field attend a program at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. The local school system and governments are in talks about building a college and career academy. Proposed as a charter school, the campus would provide work force development to students high-school age and older while encompassing multiple facets of the local economy and education system. - photo by FCN file photo

Also

* Proposed charter school in Cumming would be authority's first project.

CUMMING — Forsyth County may be known for its high-performing public school system and myriad opportunities for students to participate in specialized programs, but a potential agreement with the two local governments could bring its first college and career academy.

The county’s school board, public facilities authority and the city of Cumming are in talks about building and opening the unnamed academy. The campus would provide work force development to students high-school age and older while encompassing multiple facets of the local economy and education system.

According to information provided by County School Superintendent Jeff Bearden, County Commission Chairman Pete Amos and Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, the facility would offer ninth-12 grades, as well as secondary and continuing education. Students, organizations, small businesses and corporations would all be at one central location in the county.

If the transaction is ultimately approved by the three public agencies, Cumming would provide the land, the authority would assist with accelerated financing and the school system would offer operational oversight and the underlying revenue for land and facility costs.

The county commission may also offer assistance with grant applications and staff and personnel.

 

What would the academy offer?

 

Programs at the academy would be in partnership with the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College, with the curriculum focused on work force development through real-world experiences and internship opportunities “not duplicated within existing Career, Technical and Agricultural Education programs.

Those existing high school career academies — set in traditional learning environments — are:

* The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Academy at Forsyth Central High School

* Banking and Finance Academy and the Medical Sciences Academy at Lambert High School

* Engineering and Technology Academy at North Forsyth High School

* Hospitality Academy and the Innovation Academy at South Forsyth High School

* Sports, Entertainment and Communications Academy at West Forsyth High School

The new academy — projected to open in August 2018 with an enrollment of up to 1,000 students — would be more aligned as a charter dual-enrollment school owned and ran by the school district, falling under the category of its academies of creative education.

The hybrid Forsyth Academy, which was originally opened as a charter school, according to the school system, is an academy of creative education.

The district also offers the alternative Gateway Academy and virtual iAchieve Academy.

If approved, students in the new academy would be immersed in simulated work environments for high-growth, high-demand and high-wage occupations.

They would earn industry credentials and college credit while attending the high school.

Core academics could be taken through traditional or virtual instruction and/or dual-enrollment through UNG and Lanier Tech.

The design of the facility would reportedly mirror on-the-job training to reinforce the simulated work environment. For example, students would learn how to work in an engineering firm or hospital.

During a meeting Monday, School Superintendent Jeff Bearden told the county’s public facilities authority that the school’s focus would be in getting students certified for careers, which can distinguish graduates in the job market.

“The Department of Labor has statistics on thousands of jobs that are available in the state of Georgia right now, that are high-wage jobs that they can’t fill because they can’t find people with the certification,” he said. “Most of the manufacturing companies will tell you today that industry certification even trumps a college education.”

 

Why does Forsyth County need this?

 

According to the school system, the “most successful school districts in the United States implement a model that includes a variety of career academies, along with a central facility [that] focuses on advanced CTAE programming.”

A survey will be posted by the district on Monday, Aug. 17 for students, parents, businesses, and community members to provide their thoughts on the proposal.

Feedback will be used to develop a grant application for collaboration with the state of Georgia.

Recommendations based on state and national guidance about careers and local relevance have also been taken into account for the direction of the programming.

 

Staff writer Kelly Whitmire contributed to this report.