World Language Academy is growing, and with that growth comes the need for more classroom space.
“We knew that when they decided they wanted to change the charter to include sixth, seventh and eighth grades, we could get through one more year with them all together,” Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said.
After this school year, however, the district will need to explore other options for housing the new middle grades, Schofield said.
“By Christmastime we’d like to have all of that decided,” he said, adding possible locations for expansion include the DaVinci Academy and the former Jones Elementary School building.
In June, the Georgia State Board of Education Charter Committee approved World Language to add sixth-grade classes this year and seventh- and eighth-grade classes over the next two years. The school was chartered to develop students who are bilingual in English and Spanish. It will be the first pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school in Hall County in at least 20 years.
The middle grades were added to assist students in the dual-language immersion program.
“The first question everyone asks is, ‘This is wonderful and I want this for my child, but what happens after fifth grade? What are we going to do at the middle school level?’” said Carrie Woodcock, dual language coordinator for Hall schools.
“We have (International Baccalaureate) at the high school and a language component at the middle school, but not enough to accommodate for students coming from an immersion program.”
Not counting the middle grades, World Language’s enrollment has skyrocketed from 400 to about 700 since the school was chartered, Woodcock said.
“I don’t know what maximum capacity is, but it’s been reached and it’s been exceeded,” she said.
The younger grades are increasing in size, and upper grade levels aren’t getting any smaller. Woodcock said she anticipates about 100 more students coming in next year, counting both the new seventh grade and the existing classrooms.
There are several concerns district and school officials have when going forward in the expansion process. One is the need to be close to a high school, where students can get high school credits.
Some seventh- and eighth-grade students need access to higher-level Carnegie units, which are high school credit. “We’ve got to consider how we’re getting them in the proximity for that,” Schofield said.
Another concern is how administration of a second building will be handled.
“That decision hasn’t been made. There’s been no decision that our school will be split apart, but if that has to happen the staff will be there to handle it,” said David Moody, principal at World Language and elementary coordinator for Hall County Schools.
Woodcock said she did not know how many new teachers will come to the school for seventh and eighth grades yet.
“We’ll look at projected enrollment for next year,” she said. “Those would be the indicative numbers for staff members.”
Woodcock said she is not aware of plans to build additions onto the existing World Language Academy structure to accommodate the middle grades. If no adequate space is found — which she said she doubts will happen — the school will most likely add mobile classrooms to its campus next year.
Moody said in regards to how the process will work to finding a new space, considerations will be made about finances, transportation and parent concerns.
“It really is a Rubik’s cube with a lot of domino effects,” Schofield said.