The academy would allow APS to offer students more training for different careers, such as carpentry, construction, aviation and medical fields.
APS officials said the state’s recently redesigned school report card, the College and Career Ready Performance Index, focuses more heavily on college and career opportunities for students. The academy would give more students access to that kind of instruction, which is reflected in the report card score that schools and the district receive from the state.
“You don’t have enough money for outfitting every single high school with those needs, and this is why the academy is so important, so that we can get as many kids as possible through that to give them the lift that they need to be able to help us with meeting the expectations of the new accountability standards,” Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told the school board at its November meeting.
The state released the first scores under the redesigned report card in October, establishing a new baseline that officials said can't be compared to previous years. APS received an overall score of 73.4 out of 100, compared to the statewide average of 76.6.
The APS high school score was 65.5, lower than the district’s elementary school score of 76.8, and its middle school score of 72.8.
The redesigned report card gives schools and districts credit for the percentage of twelfth-grade students who complete career, technical, and agricultural; advanced academic; world language or fine arts courses that make up a "pathway," according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Atlanta students currently have access to some of those programs at their high schools, though the number and type differ from school to school. The district also offers college and career programs through Atlanta Technical College, but participation requires students meet the requirements for dual enrollment, earning college credit while still in high school.
The new academy would serve students who can’t get into dual-enrollment programs and who don’t have a particular program available at their high school, said Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan.
“This will help ensure that more kids will have access to pathways that are of interest to them,” he said.
He estimated up to 800 students could attend the academy, spending either the morning or afternoon at the site while continuing to take other classes at their high school.
The academy was not included in the list of projects the district said it would undertake using money from a one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, approved by voters in 2016.
But so far, the district is collecting more money from the sales tax than it expected, allowing it to consider adding other projects, such as the academy. Administrators also have recommended the board devote $3 million to the demolition of six "dilapidated" buildings.
If the school board approves the academy, construction of labs and other renovation work would take place next year with the academy opening in 2020, Jernigan said.