Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charter school may open next year in Camden County

Susan Respress of the Tribune-Georgian.
High-school dropouts in Camden County may be going to a totally different kind of school next year if a recruiting drive is successful for the proposed Coastal Education Center.

The school would be the county's first charter school with evening classes geared to students who don't fit in with a traditional school population and setting.

The impetus is a Georgia Department of Education requirement that high schools have 100-percent graduation rates by 2014. Camden County's rate is 80 percent.

"We will use an existing building for the school," said Will Hardin, superintendent of schools, who expects the first year's enrollment to be 90 to 120 students. "Graduation coaches will begin recruiting students now that have dropped out," he said.
Students who quit high school are often bright and talented but don't like the school environment of football games and proms, he said.

"They just don't want to sit in the classroom," Hardin said. "A lot of them are parents and can't afford childcare. A lot of them are very independent, and when they reach the age of independence, they drop out, regardless of the fact that they are penalizing themselves."

The charter school would hold classes year-round, meeting three to four hours in the evening for four days a week. Students would graduate with a Georgia High School diploma.

The curriculum and method of teaching will be flexible, and some of it will be computer-based instruction.

The Camden County school board agreed Tuesday night to make its charter school part of a regional consortium of nontraditional high schools directed by the Glynn County school system.

Camden is among several county school systems, including McIntosh, Brantley and Wayne counties, that are considering the plan to establish and maintain charter schools for dropout students.

School officials hope the recruitment of dropouts and students who are likely to leave high school prematurely will improve the graduation rate and raise school attendance. The students also would raise the system's full-time equivalent rate on which some state funds are based.

"There is no [initial] cost to Camden County," Hardin told board members. "Glynn County will pay for the first year of administration, and after that the cost will be split between the participants."

Hardin said Brunswick will be the hub of the state-chartered school, and each school district will have its own site. Each district superintendent who joins the consortium now will be on the board of the regional charter school.

"Once you get it up and running, it will support itself," said Gary Blount, deputy superintendent of schools.

In an earlier meeting with board members, Hardin said the board should not be afraid of the nontraditional schools.

"There is an appetite for change," he said. "You know that train is coming down the track. You can get on it or you can get run over by it."

In other action, the school board awarded a bid of $189,450 from Quality Companies Inc. of Valdosta to landscape and irrigate the St. Marys Elementary School campus. Quality Companies was among 10 bidders, including two local companies.

The board also agreed to donate two portable classrooms at St. Marys Elementary School to the city of St. Marys.

St. Marys Mayor Rowland Eskridge, who was at the meeting, said he hopes the city will use the buildings for a teen center at the city's aquatic park.

Eskridge said he is proposing that the city put bathrooms in the buildings and paint them.

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