WARNER ROBINS -- Each year, educators such as Greg Peavy work with some students who are under-credited and over-aged.
They are students who, for a myriad of reasons, have fallen behind and are a few credits -- or even a grade year or two -- short of their peers. These students are not in trouble. Most do not have behavioral or disciplinary problems, but for some reason they are not functioning well in a conventional high school setting, at least in some classes.
If were not able to give them what they need in a larger, more traditional school environment, then were looking for options that may be more suitable for them, said Peavy, principal of Northside High School.
Administrators have created an option that will take those students out of conventional classes and, it is hoped, get them back on track. The Edge Academy will open in August for high school students in the Houston County district who are four or more credits behind. Located in a wing of the Elberta Center in Warner Robins, the academy will give students smaller classroom sizes and, because all classes will be taught on computers, the opportunity to finish courses at their own pace, officials say.
Administrators discussed for a while possibilities to help high schoolers who are behind. Many of those students lose hope of graduating, said Eric Payne, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Houston Countys high school dropout rate was 2.2 percent during the 2010-11 school year, according to the most recent data from the Georgia Department of Education. The state dropout rate was 3.7 percent.
What were trying to do is to give these kids another option, so hopefully they wont drop out, Payne said. Hopefully, they will graduate on time or graduate period.
The ability to take computer courses at their own pace might be just the solution for many students, Peavy said. Students can complete their courses more quickly than in a traditional class. Many students become impatient, and its important for them to see the immediate impact of their work, he said.
The further they get behind, the more daunting the task (of catching up) is, Peavy said. If theyre behind in that credit one year, its like credit card debt -- it gets worse and worse.
Officials hope the academy will motivate students to catch up and keep going.
The academy initially will be set up for 120 students who are behind in one or more of the four core subjects: science, math, social studies and language arts. Students will take their classes on computers that will be set up in classrooms at the Edge Academy. Certified teachers will be on hand for each subject to answer questions and help guide students.
The district will not hire additional teachers -- a handful will simply move from their current high schools to the Edge Academy. That transfer will work because fewer students will be attending the conventional high schools, Payne said.
Once students are referred to the Edge Academy, they will take all of their classes there until they are caught up. Its important that, while finishing their incomplete credits, students do not fall behind in other subjects, Payne said.
While they will be taking their classes at the academy, their grades and test scores will still represent their home high schools. They will receive report cards from their conventional high schools, and they will be transported to the academy from their home high schools. Students will catch a bus from the high schools because parking is limited at the Elberta Center, Payne said.
This first year will be kind of a learning process for us as well, he said.
As the academy gets off the ground, officials plan for it to expand. They hope to someday hire more teachers, open the academy to more students, offer more subjects and possibly hold evening and summer classes, Payne said.
This is my third year in this position, he said, and, to me, this is probably the most exciting thing Ive seen in three years.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.