Madison County Schools Get $3.6 Million For Ag Career Academy
By: Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald
12/18/2012 11:00:26 AM
The Madison County School District will get more than $3 million in state money for its new agriculturally-oriented career academy.
The school system's new Regional Advanced Agriculture-Industry College & Career Academy will get about $3.65 million from the Technical College System of Georgia, most of it for building and outfitting lab space in Madison County High School, said Sherrie Gibney-Sherman, the school district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The high school is already undergoing a $24.8 million expansion and renovation, and some of the space in the renovated building will be dedicated to the new career academy. The state grant will help the school system pay for building and equipping labs for such areas as welding, environmental chemistry and basic biology, according to Gibney-Sherman.
"These labs will be industry-ready," she said.
The new academy, set to begin enrolling students in eighth grade and above beginning in the fall of 2014, is aimed at giving Madison County students the skills they'll need to compete for jobs at the new Caterpillar plant under construction near Athens, as well as work in other high-demand skill areas, Gibney-Sherman said.
But school officials are also planning to involve the county's big farming community in training students for college and jobs. The county has more than 700 farms, and "a ton" of farmers have already volunteered to open up their operations to students and classes at the career academy, said Gibney-Sherman, a former Clarke County Teacher of the Year.
Students enrolled in the career academy will get the academic preparation they need for college, and will even be able to get a head start on college through a dual-enrollment program with Athens Technical College. But they will also get more work-centered training in vocational areas that interest them, she said.
"We want to give them the proper training so they can be successful," she said. "When our kids go through our program, there will be something waiting for them on the other end."
The state Board of Education approved Madison County's application to become a charter school district, including the career academy, in May. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a passionate backer of the career academy approach, announced the grant last week.
Classes in Madison's career academy will also be open to students in Clarke and Elbert counties. Gibney-Sherman expects that nearly 1,500 students will enroll in the career academy when it opens its doors in 2014.
Although most of the grant will go for construction and equipment, some of the money should also help Madison County adults get new training at Athens Technical College, a partner with Madison County in the career academy.
When the high school renovation is complete, Athens Technical College instructors will begin teaching some technical college evening classes in the renovated high school building in Danielsville, Gibney-Sherman said.
Two other school districts - Bartow and Henry counties - got grants from the technical college system this year. With the addition of three new career academies, the state now has 27 career academies, said Mike Light, a spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia. Clarke County's Athens Community Career Academy was one of the first to get funding.
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