COVINGTON -- The Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High School continues to grow.
Program leaders recently reported to the Newton County Board of Education that the program is serving 135 students this school year.
This is up from about 80 students last school year and about 60 the initial school year in 2009.
"We did all of this by word of mouth and support from the middle schools," said Sandra Owens, program director, adding that the school does not have extra money to use for recruitment materials.
This school year, 61 freshmen are enrolled in the program, 30 sophomores, 35 juniors and nine seniors.
With the new school year also comes a few changes for the program. Students will attend bimonthly meetings and they also will have their own assigned counselor.
Program leaders plan to incorporate more local and regional trips to places like the Georgia Aquarium, Ellis Island Museum in New York City, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and historical places in Washington, D.C.
Some program requirements also will change this year. Program coordinator Kia James said the biggest change will be that the students won't have summer assignments unless they are taking an Advanced Placement English course, which then would require some summer reading.
Instead, they want students to take advantage of community service opportunities and to participate in an internship or other summer employment. In the past, students would complete work packets.
Students now will be required to start a multi-year independent study project and portfolio. Students also are required to participate in the science fair each year.
"We wanted to take an already strong program and try to catapult it into the future and make it something students across the district will be drawn to," said school Principal Craig Lockhart.
The school continues to partner with Oxford College for special training opportunities for teachers over the summer and enrichment activities for students throughout the year.
In the future, the school plans to look into an International Baccalaureate program, an advanced studies program in which schools must apply and are required to meet a certain set of standards.
Currently, all students are required to take accelerated, advanced or Advanced Placement courses to be in the program.
The program also is planning to integrate more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, research and build more community partnerships with area professionals and corporations.
Students interested in being in the program can email ALANHS@newton.k12.ga.us for more information. The program is open to any Newton County student, and applications for new students usually are available beginning in March.
To be in the program, students have to maintain an 85 average in their academic classes and participate in at least 30 hours of community service work each year.