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Alternative school has good start
Open Campus students passing at 85 percent rate

CONYERS - Rockdale County Public Schools' new Open Campus reported high success numbers during its first quarter.

The 151 high school students who attended nontraditional school attempted 351 classes at an 85 percent pass rate during the first minimester, or quarter, which was the first nine weeks of the school year. Of the students who passed their courses, 56 percent made A's and B's.

School principal Michael Mauriello said school administrators didn't expect such a high achievement during the first quarter the school was open, even though they saw great potential in the students.

"We're excited," he said. "We still have a long way to go - our goal is for all students to be successful."

The Open Campus is for students who need an alternative to a traditional high school. According to the Rockdale County schools' Web site, www.rockdale.k12.ga.us, a typical student at Open Campus would be one who needs to make up a course in order to graduate, a student at risk for dropping out of school, students who have dropped out of school and are working, or students with "social, emotional, environmental and/or self-imposed issues."

Mauriello said students who don't pass the classes have options to take the class again or choose other alternatives.

In addition to the high pass rate, 80 students recovered 116 credits with the computer-based credit recovery aspect of the school during the first quarter, according to a report to the Rockdale County Board of Education by Craig Dowling, assistant superintendent of support services at RCPS.

"That's a lot of credits, a lot more than students have earned in the past," Mauriello said. "We're proud of the initial results."

He said the school will deal with progress day by day, but so far students seem to enjoy longer class times and the more independent, adult atmosphere at the school.

Students attend two one-hour, 20-minute classes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and part of the day Friday for tutoring. They come in and out of the school as needed and have individual mailboxes. The school also only allows students five absences, which Mauriello said most students followed even though it seems strict.

Eighty-nine percent of students completed the first minimester. Dowling said those who didn't complete their program either withdrew or didn't follow the attendance policy.

During the first quarter, the school also saw its first graduate, Ashton Andrews, who plans to attend Georgia Perimeter College in January. Another student graduated this quarter after completing a credit recovery class.

Mauriello said the students who graduate have the option to walk with their class in May, but once they obtain all of the required credits, they are officially considered a graduate from the RCPS.

Whether the students attend their official graduation ceremony in May, they participate in a celebration at Open Campus, which includes the Walk of Fame, during which students and staff line the hallways and the graduate runs down the hall in his or her graduation attire.

"It was very emotional for (Andrews) and for me, as well as a lot of teachers and students," Mauriello said.

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

SideBar: Open Campus students bused to Rockdale Career Academy for lunch

CONYERS - Open Campus students weren't the only ones in Rockdale County adjusting to the nontraditional school this semester - officials at Rockdale County Public Schools also learned a little something with the opening of the new school.

With more than 150 students attending the Open Campus this quarter, lunch time became a little crowded in the West Avenue building that once housed Georgia Perimeter College and later the Alpha Academy alternative school.

The school has a break and snack area, and students are allowed to leave the campus when they aren't attending a class. However, those options haven't help ease the number of students in the building during lunch.

In response to the lunchtime crowd, school system officials arranged a bus to shuttle between 30 and 40 students to the Rockdale Career Academy, which is located off Parker Road, every day for lunch.

"This helps them out financially, and it helps (the school) out with crowd control," Craig Dowling, assistant superintendent of support services at RCPS, told the Rockdale County Board of Education during October's work session. "It also supports the RCA lunch program."

School board member Jean Yontz said she has been at RCA several times when the Open Campus students arrived for lunch.

"(The Open Campus students) are very polite and very well organized," she said. "They come in lined up, eat and go out."

Dowling said Wednesday that this plan will continue the rest of this semester, but it could change in the future.

"The Leadership Team at Open Campus is developing scheduling options that may begin next semester," he said.