Charter schools, including the proposed CCA in Liberty County, are open to anyone who would normally qualify for enrollment in other public high schools.
“Charter schools are public schools. There’s no tuition,” said Seth Coleman, director of communication for Georgia Charter Schools Association. “A lot of people think because it’s called an academy it’s a private school, but it’s not.”
There are currently 12 career academies in the state and hundreds worldwide. Coleman said Judy Scherer, who created the state’s first career academy in Coweta county before coming to Liberty was instrumental in the setting the trend.
“Dr. Scherer is really the guru for career academies,” he said. “People have come from all over the world to see her model.”
Liberty County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy Scherer, in partnership with Savannah Technical College, is gaining ground on forming the College and Career Academy, an alternative, charter school that puts high school students into local technical training and employment opportunities.
“I have just applied for a $3 million competitive grant for seed money for construction for a career academy facility,” she said. “The grant is from the Technical College System of Georgia and we should know if we get it in November.”
Now the plan is to construct the school next to the existing Savannah Tech campus, but she said they’re still negotiating. Besides a solid contract for land use, money is also still an issue. Even if the $3 million grant comes through, it’s not going to be enough to complete the facility.
“We will need additional funding,” she said, adding that it could come from a variety of sources including investors, the school system and other grants.
Scherer is anxious for the school because she said students enrolled in Liberty County schools could benefit from having multiple options after graduation.
“The reality is in the area about 40 percent [of high school graduates] go to college and 20 percent finish, we’re adding value to the rest of them. Then they can use the skills down the road for college or with these jobs they can earn a good living,” she said.
Also according to Seth Coleman, director of communications with the Georgia Charter School Association, career academies are known to significantly boost academic progress.
“They do a great service in helping young people who don’t necessarily see the benefits of a traditional high school education,” Coleman said. “It’s been proven to help the graduation and dropout rate.”
Coleman said because it gives them specific, hands-on skills, students often find more value in their own education.
“It prepares them for the world of work that they want to be in,” he said.
Scherer who first announced plans for the school in November said local businesses will also benefit because they will be able to draw from a more qualified pool of workers who had to meet certain standards before graduating.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she said.
Currently she’s working with the Chamber of Commerce to solidify business partners who will hire skilled graduates from the program.
While she said if everything goes smoothly, the school could open by 2011, nothing is set in stone. She is positive, however, that a partnership between LCSS and Savannah Tech is secure.
“Whether we get the grant and charter school status or not we will continue to work with Savannah Tech to increase the number of dually enrolled students, expand the number of programs offered, etc. to our students,” she said.