Students filed into a room full of red lounge chairs, cushioned ottomans and high top chairs against counters Friday morning at the new Early College at Jones campus.
The school is specifically dedicated to helping students get a head start on their higher education. In partnership with University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College, students at Hall County high schools can take courses at the Sylvester B. Jones Elementary School property from UNG and Lanier Tech faculty.
Friday marked the first day of school for Hall County Schools, and students in the early college program were bused from their respective high schools for their class periods. They will spend the first week of school in orientation before college and university faculty start the following week.
“It’s the first day and it’s so exciting,” said Michele Hood, Early College coordinator. “Our goals today are really just to tell a little about Early College and what’s going to happen here, and then get you back to your high schools and back to your classes and your day.”
Hood and assistant coordinator Stephanie Cookson led students on tours of the renovated facility and gave an introduction to students.
The learning commons, where students first waited Friday morning, is an aspect of the campus unlike typical high schools. It will function as a study space for students, similar to a college or university media center. It also has meeting rooms where students can work in small groups privately.
The school also has a “student bistro” with vending machines, and meals are available as well, though most students won’t be on campus during the lunch hour.
Some Lanier Tech course offerings include animation and game design, design and media production and a medical front office assistant course. Core course from both schools are also offered.
Hood credited the school board and Superintendent Will Schofield with having the vision for Early College at Jones.
“Mr. Schofield asked, ‘What’s stopping students from being successful in Move on When Ready and dual enrollment? How can we get more students ready for careers? How do we support them?’” she asked. “He thought outside the box and wanted to support them and help them be successful. And so he did and the board did.”
Sytaeshia Young, senior at East Hall, said she was impressed with the school.
“I’m excited,” she said. “It’s a cool place.”
Her classmate Shaliyah Williams said she was “anxious” about her first day, but excited to get started.
Hood said one student told her she had butterflies in her stomach.
“She said she’d never been excited about school before,” Hood said. “Bust she was excited about Jones.”