BYRON -- Board members for the proposed Byron Peach Charter High School sought input from future students Thursday.
“We want this to be a good learning environment for you, but we also want you to take pride in the school and in the education,” said board Chairman Ron Lewis.
To instill that pride, the board hoped to open a dialogue with the school’s potential students about certain aspects of the school. While the board has general ideas about its academic structure, school organizers want student feedback on school colors, the mascot, dress code and other issues.
“That’s not really something the average 50-year-old board member needs to be doing; it’s a kids’ school,” said B.J. Walker, a board member who led the gathering of about 50 students and parents at the Byron Municipal Complex.
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Even discussion of the school’s primary colors was a chance to promote next-level thinking, though. When one student, 14-year-old Marla Barragan, suggested purple and silver as potential colors, Walker challenged her and others to look beyond individual preferences.
“When you’re choosing something like that, should the color not represent something you believe in?” Walker asked.
Barragan said she enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the process.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I like to know that the kids have a say.”
Lewis said the board hopes to open the school in August 2015 with about 150 ninth- and 10th-graders. Currently, the school is awaiting approval of a circuit court judge to confirm that the school is compliant with a federal desegregation order that has been in place in Peach County since the 1970s.
Once that is clear, the school will open with college preparation as a primary focus. Walker described a six-period classroom schedule that also would include a mandatory study hall and fewer electives, all in an effort to get students ready for the SAT, graduation tests and college.
“I would call us a college-track high school, that our focus is to prepare you students for college,” Walker said.
That aspect was also important for Barragan.
“I don’t want to go to college and get there and not know what I’m doing,” she said.
Walker said the charter school’s initial small size will limit certain extracurricular activities like band and football, but he’s hopeful the Peach County school board -- which denied the school’s approval at the local level -- will come on as partners in allowing students those opportunities.
Blake Burnham, who has a daughter in the ninth grade in Peach County, also saw advantages to the charter school based on the small size.
“Just my personal opinion, No. 1, it’s smaller, so I think they can be more attentive,” he said. “It’s all about the education.”
Walker also addressed some unique scheduling options that would allow for a more individualized learning experience.
One was the looping concept, where a particular English teacher, for example, might follow a grade level of students throughout their four years of high school to develop more in-depth relationships. Another was a rotating schedule, which would allow students to take different courses at different times of the day throughout the week to maximize their ideal learning times.
“You’ve got to want to come to school that day and want to come into an environment where you can learn,” he said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.