At a work session before the school board meeting Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo provided an update on the Cherokee Academies initiative.
The six academies starting next school year include four science, technology, engineering and mathematics academies for third through fifth grade to be at the new Ball Ground Elementary School, Canton Elementary School, Holly Springs Elementary School and the new elementary school on Hunt Road. In addition to the STEM academies, the school district will also open two fine arts academies at Oak Grove Elementary School, which serves kindergarten through fourth-grade students, and at Hasty Elementary School, which serves kindergarten through sixth grade students.
Three committees are working on these plans to ensure the school offerings are aligned with student interest. A steering committee is responsible for planning and logistics. A planning committee is researching potential school models for the academies. An advisory committee, made up of teachers, principals, parents, representatives from higher education institutions and experts in academy-related fields, have given input and continue to contribute opinions and ideas on the initial four types of academies.
“The academies advisory committee and planning committee have agreed that the first academies should be located in different geographical areas throughout the school district in order to better accommodate interest and demand and to balance transportation requirements,” Petruzielo said.
The academies initiative has continued to follow four specific guidelines, Petruzielo said. These include that the academy must be cost-neutral to the district, it must have minimal impact on student transportation requirements, it must take into account capacity for additional student housing and it must be aligned with existing timelines for personnel transfers.
According to the plan, all students in the academy grade levels at each academy school will participate in the in the program. Students within the district, but outside a STEM or fine arts academy school boundary, may request a transfer later in the spring.
During a special one-week camp this summer, teachers will receive specialized training on development of lessons and units for the appropriate content on the county’s intranet. Ongoing support and professional development for fine arts teachers will be provided throughout the year.
In the spring, the planning committee will begin planning STEM academies for implementation in all middle schools beginning in fall 2014. The middle school model will focus on student ability and achievements in content areas, according to the plan.
Also during the spring, the planning committee will begin an in-depth review of current advanced academic programs to determine modifications and program enhancements for students looking for more advanced academic options.
As planning continues, middle school courses for high school credit will be added at each of the academy middle schools in the areas of career, technical and agricultural education by the 2013-14 school year. Currently, the district only offers content in Spanish, physical science and algebra for high school credit.
In fall 2012, an academies committee will review programs that could be offered as the current Teasley Middle School location in regards to a technical high school program. Assuming the replacement Teasley Middle School is completed on time, the technical high school is scheduled to open in fall 2014.