Foothills Education Charter High School, one of a number of charter schools that have sprung up in the region as an alternative way to increase graduation rates, is thriving in its second year on the Madison County High School campus.
The school, unlike the “regular” high school, has classes Monday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m. and is for any student who may have struggled along the way in the traditional school setting, or who just wants to get the classes that they need to complete high school, sometimes while also part of the Move On When Ready program that allows them to take college courses at the same time.
The school is SACS-accredited and students are able to graduate and get a diploma, something many of them may have given up on had not they not been offered this alternative.
Most of the approximately 125 students who attend Foothills are former MCHS students, but some are also from Oglethorpe County and a few from other areas, such as Elberton.
“We can take students from anywhere,” said Michelle Garrison, one of two guidance counselors at the school. Garrison also teaches seventh grade language arts at the middle school.
Foothills is a public school like any other, Garrison points out, it is not an “alternative school” nor a GED program.
The school also offers the same classes, with a few significant differences. For one thing, it provides much more flexibility to students who may have jobs or children of their own to care for during the day. Another big difference the curriculum is one-on-one computer-based where students work at their own pace in smaller class settings with courses tailored to meet their needs. Teachers are always on hand and ready to assist them when needed.
Garrison said the school is also adding tutors for one on one coaching and there are mentors who meet with students once a week to provide encouragement and motivation. “They’ve really done a tremendous job,” Garrison said of the mentors.
Graduation ceremonies, complete with cap and gown are held twice each year.
Student Sage Cash is a senior at Foothills this year and has been a student there since it opened. Quiet and reserved, Cash said he likes that there is not as much “fluff” as regular high school and that he can move through his course work at his own pace.
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