RCA tries for grant

CONYERS - The Rockdale Career Academy is hoping to get a grant that would allow the school to expand its partnership with DeKalb Technical College.

For the second year in a row, the school has applied for the Georgia Career Academy Project, a program through a partnership with the Lieutenant Governor's office and the Technical College System of Georgia that would provide grant monies to qualifying career academies in Georgia. RCA is one of the Top 10 schools in the state that could receive the grant.

"Great promise lies ahead as we begin to focus on an educational path that will provide Georgia students with the technical skills critical for a successful career in the 21st century," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on the Georgia Career Academies Web site. "Now more than ever, Georgia needs talented individuals who are ready to go to work. Career Academies prepare students for the work force."

RCA already has partnerships with DeKalb Tech and Georgia Perimeter College, among other schools and programs, and has plans to expand those partnerships in order to offer more educational opportunities to more students.

The current partnership with DeKalb Tech offers college professors and program materials in automotive, health science, construction and marketing areas to RCA's 1,300 high school students with college credit if they pass certain tests; it also provides adult education through evening classes that start again in January.

With college partnerships, the school is "trying to provide that transitional service ... so students who graduate from Rockdale County Public Schools can have a place they can start locally ... and (have) a direct spin-off of what we offer by day," said RCA Chief Executive Officer Tim Melvin.

This year, the grant RCA is applying for could provide the school with up to $3.2 million for the expansion of its DeKalb Tech program.

The school wrote the grant for an 11,000-square-foot addition to the back side of RCA's building off Parker Road. It would provide space for automotive labs and health science classes, which are the two largest programs at the school, and, therefore, allow more students to enroll in classes at RCA.

This is the second year the grant has been available and the second year RCA has tried to obtain it. Last year, the program awarded $16 million worth of grant money to six schools; RCA was the seventh choice on the list.

Because of last year's high score and because of the school's developments, Melvin hopes those factors allow the school to get high marks on this year's grant, which will provide up to $16 million to several schools.

Also, Melvin said the way the grant process is set up this year could work to their advantage. Last year, applicants simply submitted an application for a committee to review; this year, the Top 10 schools are able to also make a presentation to a committee.

Unfortunately, Melvin said, last year's grant emphasis was placed on new career academies that needed start-up funds, and he fears this year may be filled with the same focus. Even so, he said he won't give up on asking for the additional funding as long as it's available.

"It's a wonderful opportunity, and we are very thankful to the Lt. Governor working with the legislature to make sure funding is available for this," Melvin said. "If we get it or not, it's still good for the state."

The grant committee is expected to announce the winners sometime in November. It is not required to set a limit on the number of schools to which it awards grants.

Melvin said if RCA isn't awarded the grant again this year, it still will try to expand the DeKalb Tech program and its other programs when school officials are able to do so through current funding and other grants.

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