Newton looks at career academy

COVINGTON - Newton County School System officials are researching the possibility of bringing a career academy to the county, like neighboring Rockdale and Walton counties.

Since February, NCSS grant writer Kathy Garber and others have researched the Rockdale Career Academy, as well as others across the country.

"Career academies offer expanded choices to students, challenging them academically and providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in post-secondary education and the work force," Garber said in her presentation to the Newton County Board of Education during Tuesday's monthly work session.

Career academies, which are typically charter schools that students from the area high schools could be bused to during the school day, offer technical-based and career-based classes.

"We have classes like these offered at every high school, but not all classes are offered at every high school," Garber said.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for instruction, added that some of those classes, as well as advanced placement classes, could be offered at a career academy if the individual schools don't have enough students interested in them to fill a class.

"We'd like to see all students involved in some sort of career pathways," Garber said, adding that research shows that the academies can improve grades, test scores, attendance and graduation rates.

Types of possible classes the school could offer include information technology, health care science, engineering, culinary arts, automotive service technology, financial services, early childhood education, electronics, broadcast, construction, visual communication and others.

"We're talking about high-tech and highly advanced classes," Garber said, adding that she was especially impressed with Rockdale Career Academy's labs she visited earlier in the school year.

The schools also could offer join enrollment classes. However, before starting a career academy, Garber said the school system will need to develop partnerships with colleges and other organizations, even if they won't offer join enrollment classes on site.

Garber said the state could help pay for some of the school's equipment if the school system applied for capital outlay funds; however, school officials should also look into other funding options. Hayden said a charter school is only one source of funding and that the school probably will be paid for through a combination of federal, state and local funds.

The addition of a career academy, Garber said, could mean that all schools will need to be on the same class schedules; Eastside High School operates on a block schedule with four classes a day that finish in one semester, while Alcovy and Newton high schools offer six classes a day that last all school year.

NCSS officials will present the second part of its research, including programs, funding, locations and a timeline, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Board of Education's board room, 2109 Newton Drive in Covington, during its monthly meeting.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.