Atlanta College and Career Academy scheduled to open next school year

Parks+Middle+School+is+being+renovated+from+this+old+facade+to+make+way+for+the+Atlanta+College+and+Career+Academy.

PBS

Parks Middle School is being renovated from this old facade to make way for the Atlanta College and Career Academy.

Kiki Soto

The application for the new Atlanta College and Career Academy is now closed for the 2020-21 school year. But are there enough students to attend?

The Atlanta College and Career Academy (ACCA) is an Atlanta Public Schools program that will help students graduate with credentials aligned to high-demand technical careers in the metro area. The campus opens in August 2020 at 1090 Windsor Street SW at the former location of Parks Middle School, close to Atlanta Technical College’s campus.

However, as of today, only 600 APS students applied by the deadline earlier this year.

“We were hoping the numbers would be closer to 700; so, we still have an additional 100 seats to fill,” said Dr. Tasharah Wilson, principal and CEO of ACCA and former principal of Booker T. Washington High School.

Students entering the academy will take the YouScience career assessment.

“This career assessment is really going to help students identify their natural skills and talents and now you gain confidence because you know what career is most aligned to your natural talents and abilities,” Wilson said. “And from there the opportunities are endless; now you can pursue careers where you will naturally excel.”

ACCA will offer 14 career technology programs: Aviation Maintenance, Carpentry, Criminal Investigation, Culinary Arts, Cybersecurity, Dental Science, Early Childhood Care and Education, Emergency Medical Responder, General Automotive Technology, Graphic Design, Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism, HVAC and Refrigeration, Patient Care and Programming.

Wilson and the academy’s organizers considered many options before deciding which pathways to provide.

“Student interest was one, but more so, careers that are in high demand in the metro Atlanta area,” Wilson said. “The programming offered at ACCA are careers that are in high demand right now in the city of Atlanta so that when our students participate and graduate with their credentials, they can go out and get a job immediately.”

Senior Lila Chiles says she “100 percent” would have taken advantage of the dentistry pathway ACCA offers if she wasn’t graduating. Chiles is a fourth-year student in Grady’s health sciences pathway.

“I do internships and programs outside of school, but none of them have been focused specifically on dentistry,” Chiles said. “I think it’s really important for students to sort of get the experience they need in their field of choice, so they know for sure whether or not they want to pursue that career throughout college and after and when it comes to dentistry, there’s not a lot of programs, if any, for high school students to take part in.”

“It is a great move for APS to open this,” Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman said. “A number of systems already have this; Rockdale has a really good one, Gwinnett, and Athens-Clarke County and it is time”

In the first round, only 50 to 60 Grady students signed up for ACCA. Despite this, Dr. Bockman believes the initial impact to Grady is going to be minimal.

“It fits in really well with Grady’s signature theme of college and career readiness, so the whole cluster to have more options for students for a career not just college, not right away. So, a career first, then college,” Dr. Bockman said. “However, Grady also offers very robust pathways that our students are really interested in, so to ask students to go off-campus for half the day is a challenge. It is a lot easier to stay here and focus on what we have here.”

Healthcare is also a pathway at Grady as well as the ACCA, but Dr. Bockman assures that Grady’s program is staying.

“Some of our pathways are getting very full, and it would be good to take some of the relief off, burden off, in terms of numbers without us having to buy another teacher,” Dr. Bockman said. “You know we did invest in another engineering teacher, and we are going to keep the healthcare pathway here.”

Grady students are supposed to attend the afternoon section at ACCA; however, there is a concern with transportation.

“Right now, they do not have the numbers they want. In this community and North Atlanta, you can’t wait because they have options,” Dr. Bockman said. “However, we need to do more hands-on stuff. In a hospital, in an automotive shop —you know like the real world.”

ACCA is a year-long commitment where students will take classes at their current high school for half the day and classes at ACCA for the other half. Students will complete a pathway in one academic year, compared to three at Grady. Employability curriculum and training will play a major role in daily academic programming and grading. APS will provide bus transportation to and from ACCA. Some ACCA programs will require a daily uniform at school and during off-site school events (field trips, job shadowing activities, etc).

Students must be juniors or seniors during the 2020-2021 school year and on track to graduate with 12 or more credits in 11th grade and 18 or more credits in 12th grade. Preference is given to graduating seniors, and a GPA of 2.0 or higher is required.

“There is no attendance requirement for the Atlanta College and Career Academy. The criteria were very general so that we can offer more opportunities to more students,” Wilson said.

ACCA will continue to offer dual enrollment classes at Atlanta Technical College. Students with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

The school board voted 7-1 to approve a roughly $12 million renovation to transform the former Parks Middle School building on Windsor Street into an academy expected to serve about 800 students.</a> The project will be paid for with $7.58 million in Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) dollars, a $3 million grant from the Technical College System of Georgia and contributions provided by outside partners.

“Students can now make an informed decision they can receive a pathway in one academic year and then go on to continue to stack their credentials by attending Atlanta Technical College and receiving [a] technical work certificate up to an associate’s degree in that same career path,” Wilson said.

ACCA is on schedule and on budget to open next fall and the construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

CTAE head Micheal Mays died suddenly last March and was a huge part of this project. Dr. Bockman believes the building will be named after him.

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