North Augusta High School’s Class of 2016 will be the first to experience a freshman academy.
The Aiken County school board voted unanimously Feb. 28 to approve funding for the academy for the 2012-13 year. The academy is expected to cost about $165,000. Schools that do not offer a freshman academy were asked to turn in a pilot application to be considered for funding. Principal Todd Bornscheuer said the school board thought North Augusta High was so far along in planning that it needed to go ahead and vote on the academy.
“I am grateful to the board for the foresight to move forward,” Bornscheuer said.
Funds will provide two classroom teachers and a guidance counselor, he said.
The freshman academy will be housed in halls to the right of the main office. Bornscheuer said an area will be transformed into offices for the freshman administration and guidance counselor.
A team of faculty and administrators has been researching how to implement the academy for two years. It was decided to include freshman honor classes in the academy so those students feel as if they are part of the academy. Ninth-graders also will have their own bell schedule.
Bornscheuer said the academy will allow the incoming class of about 460 students to be part of a small school separated from the other 1,100 students, whom they will see only during extracurricular activities.
Teachers will have five classes all year, unlike others who have five one semester and six the next. They also will have common planning periods, which will help them to be able to discuss individual students to develop plans to help them succeed.
Bornscheuer has seen the impact of freshman academies, having come from Silver Bluff, which is one of three high schools in Aiken County with an academy. Midland Valley and Wagener-Salley are the other two.
One improvement he expects to see is in test scores. It will also target students who are at risk of dropping out, with the goal of improving graduation rates.
“Ninth grade is the most failed grade from kindergarten through 12th grade,” Bornscheuer said. “We’d be negligent if we didn’t attempt to intervene in that area where we know students struggle.”
The freshman academy will also help alleviate crowding issues in the hallways with the different bell schedule.
Not only will the Class of 2016 be the first to take part in the academy, it will also experience renovations that are expected to begin in the 2013-14 year.
A Freshman Expo will be held from 6:15 to 8 p.m. Monday and is being put on by the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter. The FBLA took on marketing the academy through a project called “Opening Doors to Your Future.” Students have visited middle schools and educated eighth-graders about the academy and answered questions.
A freshman academy fusion page will be available this week on the school’s Web site.