Facilities, curriculum evolving for nontraditional campus

By Greg Gelpi

As steel beams firm up the structure of the Clayton County Open Campus and Career Academy, school staff are firming up details of the programs that will be offered at the facility.

Jack Hinson, Clayton County schools director of Career and Technical Education, updated a committee of the Clayton County Board of Education on the project, announcing that the facility, which is on the site of the former Jonesboro Middle School, is 33 percent to 35 percent complete. Weather permitting, the facility should be ready to be occupied by October or November with initial classes starting in January.

The site will actually include three distinct programs: An Open Campus High School, Career Academy and Clayton Collegiate Academy, Hinson said.

Although the Open Campus will be an alternative to traditional education, Paulette DeVaughn, the chairwoman of the Open Campus and Career Academy task force, said that the program will not be "alternative" in the sense of a program for students with disciplinary problems.

Instead, the Open Campus will be an "alternative" to students who are non-traditional and don't fit into a typical classroom, work during the day, want to get ahead or only need one or two courses to graduate, she said.

"The facility is designed to allow flexibility around course offerings," DeVaughn said.

Hinson added that the structure of the campus will be similar to that of a college in that students who only need a course or two can come and go freely, rather than staying the entire day.

Proposed courses for the Open Campus are SAT Preparation, American Literature and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Spanish I, Spanish II, Algebra II, Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry, Algebra III, Statistics, Chemistry I, Physics I, Human Anatomy and Physiology, United States History, Government and Law, Economics and Advanced Lifetime Sports.

The Career Academy portion of the facility will be a "continuation and enhancement" of the school system's existing technical programs, Hinson said. The new program will add higher level career and technical classes for high school juniors and seniors.

Through the program, students could earn dual credit with area technical colleges, including Clayton College & State University, he said. Proposed programs for the facility are automotive service technology, business and information technology, construction technology, drafting and design technology, early childhood education, health care science technology, information technology, manufacturing and engineering sciences and technology and education. Distance learning classes will also be offered.

The third program, Clayton Collegiate Academy, will enable students to earn dual credits for high school and college, namely Clayton State, earning up to two years of college credit and a high school diploma in five years.

The new facilities will utilize technology, such as a "totally wireless environment," computer-aided instruction and virtual classrooms, Hinson said.

The Open Campus and Career Academy has been in the works for several years and developed into its current scope after a 2002 survey conducted by the school system of businesses, students, parents and area technical colleges.

A task force enlisted to oversee the Open Campus and Career Academy hasn't finalized enrollment criteria or other details as of yet, Hinson said. Long range plans call for evening classes, adult classes and short courses.