College and Career Academies topic of interest for Bainbridge

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A schooling idea introduced by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in 2011 that provides a new learning environment for students to work on specialized skills tailored to their community is being pursued by Bainbridge.

College and Career Academies offer an alternative to the typical K-12 education. The traditional idea is to send students to college after their high school graduation, but only 25 percent in Georgia make it to post-secondary education. These academies help develop skills in students that do not plan to attend college and prepare them to enter the workforce in their community, all before high school graduation.

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“The idea is that we need to make sure the kids that are not going on to college have an opportunity to develop a skill or get some type of certificate, so when they graduate they are ready to go into the workforce,” said Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby. “That’s where the idea came from.”

According to Senate Bill 161 signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011, a College and Career Academy means a “specialized charter school established by a partnership which demonstrates a collaboration between business, industry and community stakeholders to advance workforce development between one or more local boards of education, a private individual, a private organization or a state or local public entity in cooperation with one or more postsecondary institutions.”

Students could get taught anything ranging from welding to plumbing to culinary arts, depending on what the community has a need for. The state does not mandate what is required to be taught, Hobby said, allowing the academies to customize and tailor the curriculums they offer.

There are currently 37 College and Career Academies in Gerogia, including the Cairo High School College and Career Academy currently under construction in Cairo and the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy in Albany. Education at a College Career Academy generally starts between fifth and seventh grade.

The process for creating a College and Career Academy involves applying for a grant during the summer. The state accepts up to three grants a year.

“Grants get awarded in the fall,” Hobby said. “We would apply, then sometime after that you get notified if you are funded. If you get funded, you go through the whole planning phase of how you create the academy. It allows you tremendous flexibility about how you set things up.”

According to Rick McCaskill, executive director with the Industrial Development Authority, a College and Career Academy in Bainbridge would deliver technically trained students to local industries in Bainbridge with skills they would not otherwise learn at a traditional middle or high school.

Whereas a lot of industry previously relied on cheap labor, McCaskill said even those jobs are favoring more technically inclined workers.

“We have the capability of having technical training, and that’s a big plus,” McCaskill said. “Starting in junior high school, you really build up technically trained students that industries can look at and see the value in.”

Hobby said that a College and Career Academy has to be created by the Board of Education. Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran said he planned to present the Board of Education with information about College and Career Academies at its next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20.