North Augusta High School’s new Freshman Academy is setting out to put the freshman class on the path to success.
“A Freshman Academy is a transitional program for students coming into ninth grade,” said Paige Day, director of the school’s Freshman Academy. “It involves intervention. It involves our new honors academy. It also involves relevant teaching practices. Our teachers have common planning so that their lessons can be very rigorous and relevant. You’ll see a lot of teaming from the teachers that a traditional school may not be able to offer.”
Starting this school year, North Augusta freshmen have halls set aside for their use, with their lockers located on those halls, a freshmen-only lunch period and a guidance counselor who’s focused solely on them.
The students will remain together through lunchtime, taking their core classes in the morning with their classmates and take other classes such as art in the afternoon.
“The schedule is geared toward their success,” said Day. “The freshman year is such a crucial year because that is the year that sets you up for success, or if you fall behind, sets you up for failure. We want to give them the foundation they need so they can be successful for the next three years.”
Doing the groundwork for the Freshman Academy has been a two-year process, said Principal Todd Bornscheuer.
Prior to coming to North Augusta High, he was part of a team at Silver Bluff High School that started the first Freshman Academy in the district.
When Bornscheuer was named principal of the North Augusta High two years ago, there were a lot of questions about whether the school would be forced to start a Freshman Academy. His answer was “absolutely not,” he said.
“If you guys investigate it and you feel it’s the direction we need to go, and it is best for our kids and our school, then that’s where we’ll go,” he told them.
The faculty and staff decided to research on it to see whether it would be something they would be interested in pursuing. They traveled around the state doing research, contacted schools that have a Freshman Academy and did interviews.
North Augusta High’s School Improvement Council and members of the community also gave input. Students from its student council and Future Business Leaders of America sat with eighth graders to gather information from them as well.
By the time the school submitted a proposal to the Aiken County school board in February, most of the planning had been completed. The school board approved adding the academy to its budget for the 2012-13 school year by the end of February.
“I would call February the month where we went from ‘These are really neat ideas’ to ‘Let’s get to work’,” Bornscheuer said.
The academy’s 16 teachers all volunteered to be a part of the new academy and began meeting shortly after the decision to plan academy-wide classroom-management processes, looking at the curriculum, and getting involved in the process to have the academy in place for this school year, he said.
While academic success is a major focus of the academy, they also hope to set students up for success socially and in their future careers, Day said.
“As students come in, something we want to encourage is their involvement, whether it’s in sports or with one of our many clubs,” she said. “We want them to be an active part of North Augusta High School.”