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FPCA continues innovation

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POSTED: July 30, 2012 1:26 p.m.
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FPCA's main building faces Court Street, just off Highway 84 in Hinesville.

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First Presbyterian Christian Academy plans to grow its reputation as a school that offers an innovative learning experience with the addition of several new and innovative programs for the upcoming school year.  
Principal Shannon Hickey said the school is continuing to “adapt to the needs of the community in a way that it always has in the past.”
The school began as a mothers’-day-off program that offered a preschool alternative for stay-at-home mothers, Hickey said. Since then, FPCA has grown into a school with a student body of more than 400, including its fifth senior class this year.
FPCA Head of School Sammi Hester said the school’s enrollment has increased by 100 students since last school year.
New programs for the upcoming school year include a pre-Advanced Placement program for middle school students and a digital classroom.
The accelerated program for students in grades six through eight is a collaborative effort that involves preparing middle school students for the rigorous college-credit work.  
Normal classes don’t delve deeply into the critical thinking aspect of learning, but Hickey said the courses will try to overcome that. In the pre-AP program, students will not simply learn that the Civil War happened; they will delve more deeply into the reasons why it occurred.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for over a year, and to the best of our knowledge, there is nothing like it in the area,” Hester said.
The coming year also will be the pilot year for a digital classroom to be tested on fourth- and fifth-graders. If successful, the program will be implemented in other classrooms with the support of a technology fee.
The digital classroom was conceived as a way to determine whether a completely digital, virtually paperless classroom will raise test scores, aid in retention of knowledge and cause students to become more engaged in the learning process, Hester said.   
Technology teacher Maria Reed has noticed that when  a student enters the technology lab, he or she becomes a “totally different child — a child who is more passionate about learning.”
The digital classroom will come with a “built-in learning-management system,” Reed said, adding that the class will work virtually by collaborating through the learning-management system, or LMS. Students will be able to retrieve and submit their homework and collaborate with teachers and other students using the LMS.
Parents will be able to access their children’s homework assignments more readily because of the system, Hester added.
The digital classroom also will include some high-tech equipment, including a document camera, projectors, e-books, electronic tablets and laptops.
Also new this year are FPCA’s football and wrestling programs, Hester said. The first football game is set for Aug. 31 at the Liberty County Recreation Department.
The school’s priorities are character first, academics second and extracurricular activities third, Hickey said.
“We are family by choice,” the principal added. “It’s very unique, warm and inviting.
“Students have more of a sense of belonging than at public schools. … At most private schools, you will find ‘a bunch of rich white kids’ to the exclusion of everybody else. You won’t find that at FPCA. This school is very ethnically, socioeconomically and religiously diverse.”

 

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