FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — In a recent turn of events, the proposed career academy — the Alliance Academy for Innovation of Cumming-Forsyth County Inc. — has changed after the Forsyth County Board of Education switched the school from a charter to an IE2.
“Basically, Forsyth County is an IE2 school district while other school districts are charter systems,” said Valery Lowe, director of workforce development for Forsyth County Schools. “In order to qualify for grant money available through the College and Career Academy Network, this school would have needed to be a charter school. Rather than adding another layer of governance, we will proceed with the school without having to make this school a charter school.”
According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website, “a Strategic Waivers School System, or SWSS/IE2 system, is a local school district that operates under the terms of a SWSS/IE2 contract between the state board of education and the local board of education. The system receives flexibility in the form of waivers of certain state laws, rules and guidelines in exchange for greater accountability for increased student performance.”
The BOE met Jan. 14-15 to discuss its plans to apply for the College and Career Academies grant opportunity, Lowe said.
“With all of the flexibilities given to us under our IE2 contract, we see no reason at this time to run a separate charter school simply to qualify for seed money to assist with what will be a much larger local investment,” Lowe said. “With the amount of local support and attention this project has garnered, we are actively moving forward in designing a unique workforce development campus for our students as we speak.”
Now the county is applying for the Georgia Department of Education Capital Outlay Program, which has an Aug. 15 deadline. Requirements include a site approval, deed to property to secure facility code and local funds.
In addition, a general contract was awarded so work on the infrastructure will commence in October 2016 to meet the 18-month schedule to open in August 2018.
In September 2015, the Forsyth County Public Facilities Authority approved $20 million in funding for the project. Also that month, FCS applied for a $3 million grant from the lieutenant governor’s office; however in December 2015 it was deferred.
The Academy is described as a workforce development campus offering a unique curriculum for students. The facility would serve up to 1,000 ninth through 12th graders and provide secondary and continuing education for individuals, organizations, small businesses and corporations. There would be real-world experience in simulated work environments. With plans to situate the facility centrally in the county in the city of Cumming, it would also have programs in partnership with the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College, as well as dual enrollment available. Potential career pathways include drone technology, energy systems, hospitality and tourism, health care and wire law and public safety.