Judy Garrison 2016-12-08 01:59:02
Educational opportunities meet 21st century needs With education being a decisive factor on where to call home, communities and residents regard educational opportunities found within Barrow County as one of their most highly respected resources. From local schools to private institutions to post-secondary options, choices are extensive for receiving the highest caliber of education. BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM It’s a sense of community that drives the Barrow County School System. As a charter school system, one that operates under the terms of a contract initiated between the local Board of Education and the State Board of Education, Barrow County School System has greater flexibility in determining the educational needs of students within the district. Providing high quality education for students is priority, empowering students to take ownership of their learning. The system continues to attract top choice candidates as teachers, staff and leaders, while simultaneously strengthening parent, business and community partnership. They take pride in maintaining a strong educational foundation while continuously assessing and reassessing their offerings, addressing the economic and population change within the county. “We will prepare for growth and changes,” states Dr. Chris McMichael, superintendent of schools. There are 16 schools in the system, and each one is poised to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Goals are currently in place for the next ten years as they prepare for their community’s growth as well as the needs of the twenty-first century student. States McMichael, the school system will leverage technology to not only enhance classroom teaching and student learning but also to deliver curricula electronically to hospital and home-bound students, thus meeting the needs of all students. Academically, options provide students choices for their highest successes. At the secondary level, the system has implemented advanced placement (AP) courses, dual enrollment options, the Move on When Ready program, as well as STEAM classroom integration at all grade levels. STEAM emphasizes the combination of science, technology, engineering, arts and math for student learning. With the addition of The Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology in 2014, one of 33 College and Career Academies in Georgia, preparation of students in grade nine through 12 has reached a new pinnacle, offering tomorrow’s workforce classes in robotics, the culinary arts and more. With its close proximity (next door) to Lanier Technical College, it provides students the opportunity and the ease of Dual Enrollment, allowing them to earn college credit while still in high school. In addition to the 16 pathways offered at Sims Academy, students learn entrepreneurship skills to build their own businesses and how to successfully manage it once it comes to fruition. Through partnerships, innovation and technology, Barrow’s secondary students have endless possibilities for future ventures. “We are committed to providing a district wide culture of positive, engaging and relevant learning experiences for the students of this community,” states McMichael. Never being satisfied with where they are, Barrow continues “to improve, promote and expand the idea of being Barrow BOLD in all we do (Building Our Learning Differently, Building Our Leaders Deliberately, Building Our Learners Dynamically) while maintaining and increasing high levels of expectation and engagement for our children.” For 2012 Winder-Barrow High School graduate Shaquilla Harrigan, it was a continuation of the support system she received at home. “All Barrow County School System students are more capable of competing on the world stage . . . all students have a rigorous education built on a foundation of love and com passion.” Harrigan attended Harvard University where she majored in Social Studies. BETHLEHEM CHRISTIAN ACADEMY If a smaller setting is required, consider Bethlehem Christian Academy (BCA). Solid and steady is BCA, a private school located in Bethlehem. Numbers are small for this growing school that serves preschool through the twelfth grade, and Head of School Rhonda Whiting understands that as growth continues, certain expectations are in place. “You absolutely must have strong academics, of which we are very proud,” states Whiting. “As your student body grows, you have to have opportunities for every students, so he can explore his giftedness and ability.” As their mission states, they “seek to create a desire to know and serve God in the heart of each student by equipping them academically, physically, spiritually and socially to fulfil God’s purpose for their life.” Their growth over the past five years has been impressive and mission fulfilling. Continues Whiting, “we began graduating students from our high school, added the new high school building, the new gymnasium, the new football field, and our student body grew from 421 to 559, moving us from A to AAA in the Georgia Independent School Association.” The school has thrived in the elementary and junior high levels, but with growth in its high school, it is now realizing regional and state championships, from baseball to debate to literary teams. “As exciting as the last five years have been,” says Whiting, “we are even more excited about what’s coming in the next five years.” One of its success stories is 2014 graduate Christina Najjar, who is a biochemistry and molecular biology major at The University of Georgia. Not only is she advancing her dream of researching cures for cancer, she continues to be guided by her faith as a member of Classic City Church in Athens. As a member of Pre-meds Without Borders, Najjar explains that her ultimate goal is to “bring spiritual as well as physical aid to those in need.” Exciting days are ahead for the school as it partners with Project Lead the Way, the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs, to add a high school engineering curriculum. With low student/teacher ratios, this vigorous program is an ideal fit for BCA and provides students an opportunity to expand their interests. With this family — as Whiting calls it — continuing to grow and thrive, it comes down to building the best curriculum for the school and students while not leaving the emotional and spiritual behind. “In a world where it’s easy for students to get lost in the flood of information and in the crowd,” says Whiting, “BCA is a safe place where they can be nurtured and challenged to reach their own highest potential.” To meet the ever-changing needs of the twenty-first century student, Barrow County is on the cutting edge of technology, hiring the most professional and outstanding educators available and continuing to maintain a positive and engaging atmosphere. No matter which educational choice you consider, excellence will be the result. For more information about Barrow County School System and its schools, visit its website barrow.k12.ga.us; for more information about Bethlehem Christian Academy, visit its website, bethlehemchristianacademy.org.
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