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Schools may try Bible classes
Electives could come to county in fall 08
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GAINESVILLE — Bible elective classes as sanctioned by the state Department of Education could be coming to Hall County schools in the fall of 2008.

The district is looking at starting "Literature and History of the Old Testament Era" and "Literature and History of the New Testament Era."

The half-unit classes would familiarize students with contents of the Old and New Testaments and the history recorded by both, as well as each one’s literary style and structure and the customs and cultures of peoples and societies.

Also, according to a district document outlining course changes for the 2008-09 school year, each class would cover the "influence ... upon law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture."

"We have placed the Old and New Testament courses in the course guide so we can see what interest level there is when students request their courses (in the spring)," said Superintendent Will Schofield. "If there is demand to teach these courses, we will do our best to provide the staff and opportunity."

The state Board of Education voted in March to add the courses to the state’s curriculum, following up on a directive by the state legislature in 2006.

Georgia’s school systems can decide whether to offer the courses.

As the issue swirled among state leaders, supporters saw the courses as an opportunity to teach students an important historical text as critics worried they would serve as a jumping-off point for pushing religious beliefs.

Cindy Blakley, Hall’s director of middle and high schools, said the system has had "some interest expressed" in the courses.

"We will advertise these courses the same ways we do all other courses, (such as through) meetings with students and parents (and) through the course guide," Blakley said.

For many years, students at Johnson High School in South Hall and Gainesville High School have been able to explore Bible study courses as electives through Center Point, an agency financially supported by area churches and other private contributors.

Through "released-time education," Center Point offers Christian-based courses to GHS students from its single-story brick offices across from the school on Elephant Trail. Johnson students take classes at nearby Redwine United Methodist Church.

"Because it is a viable community partnership that has always benefited both partners, there are no plans for change," said Diane Bryant, principal of Gainesville High School’s Academy. "Therefore, at this time, we have no plans to offer either of (the new state-approved) courses on our campus."