ATHENS, Ga. - Clarke Central High School faculty are hoping ninth-graders will receive more individual attention and make the transition from middle school with relative ease this fall with the help of a new "academy" program.
For the first time, ninth-graders will be split into three groups, or "academies," of about 125 students, with the students in a given academy having the same teachers for core curriculum classes - English, math, social studies and science.
An administrator and counselor will focus on one academy each, with the goal of getting to know each student better both personally and academically. Each academy also will work on to-be-determined community service projects.
Most important, according to several staff members, will be the common planning time the four teachers of each academy will share, enabling them to discuss student progress two or three times per week.
Elective courses will remain open to students, meaning ninth-graders will have the opportunity to share classes with friends in other academies and different grades.
"Research shows that ninth grade can be a make-or-break year for a lot of students, so we're going to make sure they each have what they need," Principal Maxine Easom said. "We're going to make sure we get to all kids this way."
A $148,335 federal Goals 2000 grant will help the school with the program by providing money to pay for free after-school tutoring four days per week. The grant also will pay for parent liaisons for each academy, who will keep parents informed of absences, poor grades and anything else they should know.
"It's a lot easier to not go to class in high school than in elementary and middle school, but the liaisons will try to talk to parents within 24 hours of each absence," Ms. Easom said.
Students got their first taste of the academies at a ninth-grade orientation Thursday, where they learned about the school dress code and extracurricular activities and toured the school with a scavenger hunt, collecting proof of their visit at a dozen spots around the campus, heads looking down at maps all the way.
"I feel like I have no clue where I'm going, so I guess we need this," Christina Cole, 14, said. "I'm glad the ninth grade is going to be separated 'cause I heard freshmen get picked on and stuff."