State gives green light to Hutchings charter school

Staff reportJune 19, 2014 

High_Schools

Hutchings Career Center

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com

The Hutchings Career Center will become a charter school when classes resume there in August.

The state Department of Education gave approval for the new school, to be called the Hutchings College and Career Charter Academy, earlier this month, according to a statement from the school system.

The new Hutchings academy will allow high school students to specialize in trade studies and take technical college courses.

The charter school, which will be part of the Bibb County school system, will be governed by both the Bibb County school board and the school’s own advisory board. It will have both full-time and part-time high school students from across the district.

The school was built for about 1,000 students, but only about 300 students attended classes there this past school year.

Classes will be organized as small learning communities, combining academic and technical curricula around specific career themes. There will be partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities.

Students will have the option of receiving a high school diploma, technical certification, an associate degree and industry credentials.

One of the biggest differences between the charter school and the current career academy will be the teachers and the classes offered. A charter designation will allow school officials to hire industry professionals as instructors and offer more advanced, vocational courses.

“It gives us flexibility with the curriculum,” Hutchings Principal Darrick McCray said earlier this year. “We can actually generate some courses under the charter status that normally we wouldn’t be able to get the seat time for.”

The career center already encourages students to specialize in certain trades, from automotive technology to culinary arts, and a charter designation would allow school officials to add more career tracks.

Among the “career pathways” requested by students in a survey were: architectural drawing and design (to be offered in 2015-2016); automotive service technology; aviation flight operations; culinary arts; therapeutic services/allied health and medicine; business and technology; hospitality, recreation and tourism; personal service care/cosmetology and barbering; teaching as a profession; and graphic communication.

There have been discussions about moving the charter school into the Macon Promise Neighborhood Center on Anthony Road. For now, that move is an idea and ultimately would be up to the school board, interim School Superintendent Steve Smith has said. Also, the Promise Center would have to undergo extensive renovations before it could house the charter school.

A big reason for a possible move would be the Promise Center’s proximity to Central Georgia Technical College, one of the partners with the new charter academy.

Smith’s ultimate idea is to move the Bibb County school board offices into the current Hutchings building, then sell the administration building on Mulberry Street.

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