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Academy's new building was decades in the making
Rutland helps children with special needs
Students, superintendents and special-needs staff from the 13 school districts that make up the Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency prepare to cut a 45-foot ribbon Jan. 25 at Rutland Academy as part of the dedication ceremony. - photo by Claire Miller

Rutland Academy

  • What: Rutland Academy is a school that serves 13 school districts in Northeast Georgia, and "provides a service for students who have emotional and behavioral disorders as well as students with autism and related behavioral concerns," according to co-director Rebecca Edenfield.
  • Where: 1250 Oglethorpe Avenue, Athens
  • Features: Classrooms, counseling suites, intensive intervention rooms, art and music therapy rooms, a cafeteria, conference rooms, a multi-purpose room and administrative areas.

ATHENS — The new brick building on Oglethorpe Avenue that houses Rutland Academy may have been finished in 2008, but its true beginnings stretch back 40 years to a woman who wanted to help children with special needs.

Mary Margaret Wood, founder of the school, wanted to provide students who had behavioral and emotional problems with a place for learning that housed both teachers and professionals who could help them with their needs. Forty years later, Wood stood before a crowd of about 150 people Sunday to help dedicate Rutland’s new facility, which serves Barrow, Jackson, Jefferson and 10 other school districts in Northeast Georgia that make up the Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency.

"Imagine for a moment the unimaginable. There was no help for children struggling with behavioral problems," she said about Georgia before Rutland was founded. "This all started to change when we got two classrooms to work in."

The two-classroom operation became eight classrooms when the Georgia General Assembly, the Office of the Governor and other governmental agencies donated funds for its expansion. From there, Rutland’s small staff moved to the Howell Cobb House, then to a facility on Minor Street in 1980.

"After 25 years, we are here with 30 classrooms," Wood said to loud applause from the audience. "Think about that. Isn’t that incredible?"

The facility is well overdue, as Jackson County Superintendent Shannon Adams and Rutland co-director Rebecca Edenfield attested.

"It’s a 100 percent improvement," Adams said. "They have all the best technology in the classrooms, all the things you would expect in a new facility. The kids have deserved it for many, many years."

Collaborative efforts paid off

The new building is a direct result of the collaboration in funding and planning of the 13 school systems: Barrow, Clarke, Commerce city, Elbert, Greene,
Jackson, Jefferson city, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Social Circle and Walton.

"It’s rare to see the kind of collaboration we saw with these 13 school districts and RESA," said Stan DeJarnett, chairman of the district’s board of control and Morgan County Schools superintendent. "We gave you the power to act and these are the results."

In order to adequately serve and support the member districts, Rutland officials worked with the school districts to fund and construct the new facility. The teachers and other faculty moved into the building over the winter holidays and classes began on Jan. 8.