Could Clarke County high school students take college courses at their schools that are taught by their high school teachers?
Clarke County schools Superintendent Demond Means is exploring that possibility as he seeks to transform the Clarke County School District’s career academy.
At the same time, Means wants to expand vocational offerings at the Athens Community Career Academy in the school district’s H.T. Edwards Complex, making it into a program more like what it was envisioned to be when it was launched in 2011.
As the career academy began, high school-based vocational programs were largely dismantled at Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools.
State officials tapped Clarke County’s new career academy as the state’s top career academy in 2014, but enrollment actually lagged behind projections until recent gains.
Enrollment stood at 116 in the 2014-2015 school year, but jumped to 289 in 2016-17 and 267 in the current school year, according to statistics Means shared.
In the 2014-15 school year, 70 seniors enrolled, earning a total of 939 college credits. In 2016-17, 105 seniors enrolled, earning 1,822 college credits.
The career academy currently offers six so-called “career pathways,” including criminal justice, early childhood care and education, early college essentials, emerging technologies, healthcare access and mechatronics. By far the most popular is the early college one, in which students can take required college courses such as English or history and get both high school and college credits.
The state Legislature and Gov. Nathan Deal have in recent years been pushing more students to dually enroll in courses that earn them both college and high school credits.
But having the college courses at the career academy takes the best and brightest away from campus, Means told board members.
Means’ goals include having as many as 15 career pathways in the 2018-19 school year, including all those currently taught except for early college essentials, which could move to the high schools.
That would mean students who just want to take college courses wouldn’t have to leave their high school campuses for half a day, and could give them more of a chance to participate in extracurricular activities.
In addition to career pathways already at the academy, new ones could include accounting, biological sciences lab technology, computer networking and support, culinary arts, design and media production, electrical construction systems, engineering technology, hotel management, legal studies and welding. Healthcare access would become healthcare science (certified nursing assistant).
Whatever pathways begun will be based on a true need for such training in the community, a partnership with a business partner or partners, and student interest, he said.
Means is now talking with officials at Athens Technical College about the possibility of “deputizing” qualified high school teachers to teach those dual enrollment courses, he told Clarke County Board of Education members at a Thursday meeting.
“Having those courses back at our high schools, that’s very exciting to our principals,” he said. Teachers have also responded favorably.