Back To School: In Coweta, great education within everyone's grasp
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
As its population has grown exponentially over the past 20 years, Coweta County has emerged as a respected – and widely recognized – center of educational diversity.
From public programs including traditional, charter and cyber schools to private academies, state-funded pre-kindergarten and a home school co-op supported by hundreds of families, educational opportunities to match all life and learning styles abound.
In 2012, Lee Middle School was recognized as a national Lighthouse School to Watch and Central Educational Center was named a Georgia Innovator by the Southern Growth Policy Board. Dr. Laurie Barron of Smokey Road Middle School, Georgia’s Middle School Principal of the Year, also is one of the three finalists for the National Middle Level Principal of the Year award.
Despite budget crises caused by tough economic times throughout Georgia and the nation, Coweta schools have suffered no cuts in personnel, programs or services. While other districts have been forced to rearrange or subtract from school schedules to make up budget shortfalls, CCSS educational days and hours have remained intact.
Extensive renovations and modifications – including a remodeling of historic Drake Stadium – are nearly complete at the county’s oldest high school, Newnan High, and preliminary planning has begun for the county’s newest school, Corinth Road Middle, which has a projected opening of fall 2014. One of the jewels in the CCSS crown is The Centre for Performing and Visual Arts, a 1,000-seat, state-of-the-art performance hall featuring student exhibition space, instruction and master classes in all fine arts concentrations.
When the 2012-13 school year opens Aug. 6, Coweta schools will continue a system-wide technology overhaul as well as begin to implement new curriculum. Georgia has joined with 47 other states to develop a set of core standards for K-12 intended to provide a consistent framework for student success in college and/or the 21st century workplace, and CCSS administrators and educators have been preparing and training since last year to implement English language arts and mathematics portions of the new Common Core Curriculum.
Central Educational Center (CEC), a charter school serving high school students through career and college-based instruction and industry partnerships, is a national model and a basis for Georgia’s 25 new career academies. Beginning this year, CEC will pilot an eighth-grade program for students from each of Coweta’s six middle schools. In addition, CEC – founded in 2001 as a joint venture with West Georgia Technical College – will continue to provide hundreds of students each year with dual-enrollment opportunities.
CCSS high schools also are working with other colleges and universities, including the University of West Georgia’s Newnan Center, to expand dual-enrollment programs in the upcoming year. Dual-enrollment allows qualifying high school juniors and seniors to earn college credit while working towards their high school diplomas.
For more information on registration, schools, services and initiatives, visit www.cowetaschools.org .
In addition to traditional public schools and CEC, Coweta County offers two public charter schools, “schools of choice” which are tuition-free with student admission determined by lottery. Each charter school is governed independently and unlike traditional public schools, each charter school must demonstrate student success, or risk losing its charter.
Odyssey School in Newnan ( www.odysseycharterschool.net ) was approved in 2001 by the Georgia Board of Education, the first state-established charter school in Georgia. The school opened in 2004 with more than 100 students in grades K-5 and currently serves grades K-8. Coweta Charter Academy in Senoia ( www.cowetacharter.org ), which serves grades K-7, was established by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission in 2010.
Coweta students, along with others from throughout Georgia, have another non-traditional public school option in cyber schooling, or virtual learning. Through Georgia Cyber Academy ( www.k12.com/gca ) and Connections Academy ( www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school ), tuition-free programs allow students to learn in a variety of settings using a combination of computer-based and textbook curriculum.
Families may choose from among several highly rated private Coweta County schools, including The Heritage School, Carolyn Barron Montessori School, Trinity Christian School and Heritage Christian School, or they may join hundreds of other local families who have chosen to take responsibility for their children’s educations through home-schooling.
Approximately 330 local homeschooling families are members of Eagles Nest Christian Home Educators Association ( http://www.enchea.org/ ), which offers parent-taught co-op classes, field trips, support, clubs and activities, retreats, proms and graduation for families who have opted out of traditional education.