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Forsyth Academy weighs change from charter to program
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New opportunities could be heading to the Forsyth Academy if the local school district decides to convert it from a charter format to a program.

The nontraditional charter high school opened in 2005 to provide an alternative option for at-risk students. Officials used the charter approach because it was the only option at the time.

The school has evolved to offer night classes and credit recovery courses and allows students to work at their own pace, often to graduate early.

None of those aspects would change, said Forsyth County Schools Chief Accountability Officer Cindy Salloum, who first made the recommendation to the system leadership during a recent retreat.

According to Salloum, with the state requirement that high school students follow a career pathway, there’s evidence that “a continued operation of the charter school would be contrary to the best interest of the students.”

“We don’t have those career pathways at Forsyth Academy,” Salloum said during the retreat. “If Forsyth Academy is still a charter school, it won’t look very good because they won’t be graduating kids in pathways.”

Academy students currently have access only to a business pathway. If the school were to become a program, however, students could access nearly 30 choices, including engineering, hospitality, cosmetology and marketing.

“Not every kid in the world wants a business pathway,” Salloum said. “If it’s not business, it’s not something we can do at Forsyth Academy, then they will be enrolled in that particular course they need at their base school.”

There are still a few kinks to sort out, according to Salloum. Principal Brad Smith is working with other school leaders to figure out the logistics, especially since students who attend the academy must provide their own transportation.

There’s also the issue of whether students would continue to graduate from the academy or their base school, and which school’s name would be appear on the diploma.

Salloum said these questions will be answered by the 2013-14 school year, when the changes likely would take place.

If the academy becomes a program, other possible changes mentioned by Salloum include having fewer restrictions on the number of students and opening enrollment to those who have at least attempted ninth grade.
Under the existing setup, students must be 16 or older to enroll in the academy.

The school’s current student population stands at 79, but there are about 25 on a waiting list, largely because enrollment occurs in January or at the beginning of a school year.

Under the proposal, Salloum said, there would be rolling enrollment, which would mean students could start at any time.

Salloum is filling out paperwork to terminate the charter and turn the academy into a program. The school board likely will vote on the measure next month. State approval also is required.

Pathway options aside, Salloum said “what will be different at the Forsyth Academy is negligible to the particular students on a daily basis.

“We’ll still call it the Forsyth Academy, we’ll just drop off anything that has to do with the word charter,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for kids in all directions.”