COVINGTON -- Newton County students interested in getting more of a liberal arts education have until the end of the month to apply for admission to a special program.
The Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High School is accepting applications until March 31 for entrance into its program.
The academy began last year with about 60 students and now the program is serving more than 80.
"It is growing steadily," said Sandra Owens, assistant principal at the school, who helps direct the program.
Next year, school officials hope to increase enrollment into the program by 50 students.
"The only budget we have is through grants and donations," Owens said. "We are revising the courses and hopefully adding more Advanced Placement Courses. We are adding more teachers to our program and constantly looking for opportunities for professional development."
The four-year program was developed last year as a school within a school in which enrolled students take advanced courses and academic electives. It is a partnership with Oxford College of Emory University, which provides enrichment opportunities for students and assistance for staff.
"(The college has) been wonderful in assisting us with various projects, professional development and providing resources to our parents," Owens said.
The academy is affecting the entire school, she said.
"ALANHS is helping to permeate rigor throughout the school, not just in the academy," she said. "It has provided opportunities for teachers to expand their repertoire of teaching skills, collaborate with their peers and challenge students to academic achievements they never thought they were capable of. Other students and teachers observe this and want to participate in this experience as well."
The school is developing a mentoring component in the academy that will include teachers mentoring students and upper classmen mentoring lower classmen in the academy. This summer, students in the program will travel to Costa Rica and next summer to Greece.
"This has been a great experience for the teachers, students and me," Owens said. "I wish all students could participate in this rigorous program; ALANHS truly is the school of the future."
Students in the program have to maintain an 85 average in their academic classes to stay in the academy. They also must complete a portfolio and 30 hours of community service each year by participating in service clubs, Relay for Life, volunteer work at a library or hospital, or school clean-up and recycling projects, among other activities.
The school will hold an informational meeting tonight for rising ninth-grade students and their parents. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the school's auditorium.
Incoming students must be residents of Newton County and can live outside of the Newton High School zone if they provide their own transportation. Rising ninth-graders must be enrolled in a Quest program with an overall average of 85 or a regular program with an overall average of 90.
The deadline for applications is March 31, and officials will review them from March 15 to April 15. The application for Newton County students includes the application form, two teacher recommendation forms and a resume. The ALANHS director will obtain discipline and attendance records and grades.
The school will notify qualified applicants on April 30, and final grades and test scores must be submitted by June 15. Welcome letters will be mailed June 30.
The program will hold a summer institute at the end of July.
An application package, necessary forms and more information about ALANHS are available at the school or by visiting www.newtoncountyschools.org/newtonhigh/liberal_arts.htm.