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Schools get $3.1 million grant for career academy
Hall County, Lanier Tech to team up
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Hall County schools and Lanier Technical College finally received the green light for a joint $3.1 million state grant to fund Lanier Charter Career Academy, which will include a culinary arts school and public restaurant.

The State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia awarded six charter grants Thursday totaling $16.7 million to public school system and technical college partnerships statewide.

Initially, the state Technical College System of Georgia intended to announce the grant recipients by Nov. 6. But the state told applicants earlier this week the grants may not be available due to the anticipated $2 billion state revenue shortfall, according to Hall County schools Superintendent Will Schofield. Educators were told they could expect a final answer on the pending grant allocations in January, but the state came through Thursday with the awards.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle initiated the Career Academy program in 2007 to create relevant learning environments that he said have proven to increase graduation rates and ensure job placement or post secondary opportunities.

Schofield and Mike Moye, president of Lanier Technical College, spearheaded the grant proposal. The grant will further integrate technical education and certification classes into Lanier Career Academy’s existing technical program to give students a jump-start on their careers or college credit.

Moye, who was on hand at Thursday’s meeting of the Technical College System of Georgia, said this is good news in a challenging time.

"In a time of budget cuts and at a time when people need training for jobs for tomorrow, this is the right step," Moye said.

Schofield said he credits Cagle with having the foresight to invest now in the young work force.

"In tough times, the knee jerk reaction is always to pull back, to quit spending money, to quit developing talent," Schofield said. "The times that we’re in are a reflection of the fact that we need more and more talent. With this global economy we’re in, we’ve got to have the value add over all of our counterparts from all over the world, and we need to be finding ways to train our young people in our work force even better than we ever have."

Schofield said the purpose of the grant is to make a high school education more applicable to students’ career goals. He said the grant will augment the existing medical science and digital media offerings at Lanier Charter Career Academy to allow students to earn technical certifications while simultaneously earning a high school diploma.

The bulk of the grant will be matched with a small portion of local funds to construct the charter school’s culinary building, which will be built during the 2009-10 school year as an addition to the existing Lanier Career Academy. Schofield said he hopes the new charter school program, which will operate from the existing academy building on Atlanta Highway, will open in fall 2009. The culinary school could be up and running by fall 2010, he said.

The culinary school will provide students with hands-on cooking experiences in gourmet and pastry foods. The culinary building will feature a student-run bistro and dining room open to the public during lunch hour.

Moye said through the Lanier Charter Career Academy, students will be able to earn technical certificates in the culinary arts, hospitality management and multimedia communications. The program also will create opportunities for students interested in the growing medical field by offering high school students certificates in medical translating, certified nursing assistant and pharmacy assistant.

"Today, we are delivering on our promise to Georgia’s students to provide an innovative and relevant approach to education," Cagle said in a news release. "The partnerships of local school systems, technical colleges and area businesses provide an unbelievable launching pad for Georgia students. During these tough economic times, it is now more important than ever to give our students the promise of higher achievement and a path to a successful career."

Cagle also credited Gov. Sonny Perdue and state Sen. Lee Hawkins for pushing the grant through.

"The governor and Sen. Hawkins are strong supporters of this project and worked very hard to make sure the students in Hall County had access to a Career Academy," Cagle said.