While students adjust to new teachers, new classrooms and new challenges, the Bartow County School System looks to prepare its high school students for life after graduation.
The highly-anticipated opening of the Bartow County College and Career Academy is here and when the school bell rings for county students Wednesday, 240 of them will make history as the academy’s first students.
“I’m excited about it,” said academy principal and CEO Paul Sabin.
Sabin said in the months leading up to the academy’s opening day the school system has worked to get the facility, which is the old Cass High School on Grassdale Road, in tip-top condition.
Rick Kollhoff, vice chair of the board of directors for the academy, said opening day for the school signals a milestone.
“We’re finally getting to the point where we can open the doors,” said Kollhoff. “It’s exciting because so many people in our community are involved in it. It’s a community-wide project. The leadership has been phenomenal to make this happen.”
Since receiving $3.4 million from the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia in December 2012, Sabin said the academy has undergone renovations totaling about $1.2 million.
Changes to the building’s façade, updated classrooms and new labs will welcome students when they start classes.
The academy, which is offering classes to rising sophomores and juniors, offers career “clusters” in engineering, health care, public safety, and marketing. Additionally, students who meet specific criteria can participate in dual college enrollment, Sabin said.
Sabin said there are plans to add additional clusters, such as cosmetology, later.
Sabin said the reality of the academy comes from a vision from the community, the school board, Superintendent John Harper, Georgia Highlands and Chattahoochee Tech.
Sabin said it is a joint venture between the community, K-12 education, post-secondary education, business and industry to ensure a viable workforce along with continued opportunities for the students of Bartow County.
Sabin said with a graduation rate under 70 percent, the desire is through the academy that number will improve as students are given more options to equip them with job skills along with their high school diploma.
“They are actually getting on-the-job training,” Sabin said.
The academy still has two additional “phases” to undergo and include plans to add a student center, auditorium and more lab space, Sabin said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday and Sabin said an official open house will be held in September.