Officials: Henry gets its first charter ever

McDONOUGH — The Academy for Advanced Studies is officially Henry County Schools’ first-ever charter school.

The start-up charter school was approved Thursday by the Georgia Board of Education. Henry school officials gave a presentation Wednesday to the board’s charter committee, which recommended it be approved.

“I think this is a great opportunity to expand options in Henry County,” said John Uesseler, Henry’s career, technical and agriculture education coordinator. He is responsible for the Academy for Advanced Studies until a CEO is chosen in November.

The Academy is located in a wing of Henry County High School and currently facilitates dual enrollment and adult education programs for three area colleges — Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin, Gordon State College in Barnesville and Clayton State University in Morrow.

Uesseler said the facility would open next fall as the district’s first charter. He said the charter will offer specialized career-technical and academic programs available nowhere else in the school district.

To start, the charter will offer electronics, culinary arts and cosmetology which are programs presently offered at Henry County High. He said it will be able to serve as many as 1,400 students bussed in from around the county its first year.

The charter was largely inspired by input from Henry County’s business and industries community. Uesseler pointed to recommendations by the Education and Economics Task Force, a group of business, education and community leaders commissioned by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce to study the potential links between education and the workforce in Henry.

The group made suggestions in 2011 with a report entitled “E2: Economics & Education, an Action Plan for Education & Workforce Development.” It contained ideas to help educational practices and outcomes in the county.

“It became pretty clear that one way we could implement those ideas was to create a charter school for specialized career-tech and academic programs,” said Uesseler. “It’s an opportunity to offer more high-caliber and academically rigorous and relevant options in Henry County.”

Program costs and participation had been a concern in the past. About five years ago, the district eliminated a long-running construction program at Stockbridge High because it was not cost-effective.

Uesseler said officials could not justify continuing the program because its operation costs exceeded its potential for participation.

“It’s very expensive and doesn’t often work whenever you have just one high school,” he said. “That’s why we chose to take construction out of Stockbridge High School.”

He said the centrally located charter will take from a bigger pool of like-minded students and will offer courses unique to it.

Uesseler said officials plan to apply for grants in order to create and expand courses at the Academy for Advanced Studies.

The district applied for the Georgia College and Career Academy Project Grant in September. He said the grant is $3.15 million provided through the Lieutenant Governor’s Office at $150,000 in start-up funding and $3 million in state bond funds for facilities expansion. The monies would be administered through the Technical College System of Georgia.

“If we were to secure the grant, we could be able to expand or add programs such as automotive, construction, metal working or welding,” Uesseler said. “You could build an automotive lab, a construction lab, an energy lab or a technology lab.”

School officials will learn if the district is a grant winner in early December.