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School system lands career academy grant
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The Effingham County School System has been awarded a $3.2 million grant for a career academy. The grant is awarded through Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Georgia Career Academies Project.

“We received word of that today, so we’re very excited,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said Wednesday.

The state Department of Technical and Adult Education’s board met Wednesday morning and made Effingham one of the five systems, out of 19 applicants, to get the career academy grant.

“We know from recent studies that there is a significant need to expand the capacity of the Effingham County Schools to increase the number of students who are workforce ready upon graduation from high school,” Shearouse said. “The career academy will help satisfy this need by preparing students to obtain advanced postsecondary training for technical careers in areas such as health care, public safety, manufacturing and engineering, and historic preservation.”

Shearouse said the next step will be to work with an architect on a building that will accommodate the programs the academy will offer.

The Effingham County Board of Education anticipates opening the Effingham Career Academy (ECA), the county’s first charter school, in July 2009. The school board has proposed locating the ECA on Highway 21 adjacent to the new Savannah Technical College campus. School officials and board members will begin immediately to make the final decisions on this and other issues.

Shearouse said the system will be able to begin offering a limited number of classes at the Savannah Technical College campus.

“We’re using the facility with some of our students now,” Shearouse said. “We won’t be able to use it full scale, but we will be able to have some of the classes there. It won’t reach it’s full potential until we have a facility down there by the technical college.”

Shearouse said students attending the career academy will still be students of Effingham County High School or South Effingham High School. Freshmen students will attend the home school and beginning with their sophomore year students will be able to take vocational classes at the ECA.

These students will be officially enrolled in the appropriate high school for the district in which they reside and
will enroll in the ECA based on a chosen career path. ECA students will attend classes on the ECA campus and/or on their home school campus. Courses at ECA will be based on the same schedule currently used at both high schools.

The ECA will be organized as an extension, enhancement and expansion of both new and existing curriculum and career programs at both ECHS and SEHS while also creating a seamless linked extension to Savannah Technical College, a participating partner under agreement with the Effingham County Board of Education.

 “We’ll still have some vocational programs at both high schools,” Shearouse said. “I want the programs (at the career academy) to fit with local industry.”

Shearouse said the needs of local industry may change, and the system will have to be flexible to help students graduate with the skills to find jobs in the local area.

“It’s going to be great for our kids who want to look at a career path,” he said. “It offers them a lot of opportunities.”
He said he wants students to be able to find good paying jobs that will allow them to support themselves and a family.

“I think this is going to be great for the county,” Shearouse said.

He said the system has not yet heard official word on the charter submitted for the career academy.

Shearouse said $200,000 of the grant money will be used for planning and hiring a CEO of the career academy. The other $3 million, along with $3 million in special purpose local option sales tax funds, will be used to build the facility.
“It’s a new road to travel,” Shearouse said. “We’re excited about it.”

A series of articles about the Effingham Career Academy will be published in upcoming issues of the Effingham Herald. These articles will provide additional information about this innovative and exciting opportunity for Effingham County’s high school students.