Cobb Horizon offers students a change of pace

Destiny Grier has been home schooled since she was in the fourth grade, but when it came time for high school, the Marietta 17-year-old gave the traditional bricks-and-mortar option a try.

“The school was good, but I’m very hands on,” she said. “When I heard about the new school from my brother, I applied.”

Grier is now working toward her diploma at Cobb Horizon High School, one of the county’s newest that graduated its first class in December. The Marietta institution opened last August specifically for non-traditional students to work in an alternative setting to their home high schools. But Principal John Kelly is quick to point out that “alternative” doesn’t mean what most people think.

“We are not a disciplinary thing; we are not that program,” said Kelly, who came on board when the school was created last year. “We are an academic alternative aimed at 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds; traditional high schools are for the younger kids. And kids have to apply to come here.”

Applicants usually have extenuating circumstances such as outside obligations that conflict with a traditional school day or the need to make up credits after transferring into the district.

“Most kids who come here are dealing with things that have kept them from being in a traditional high school,” said Kelly. “For instance, we have a young man who works from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. at Delta to support his family. There’s no way he could be successful in a traditional setting.”

Cobb Horizon also supports transfer students who earn a diploma sooner than if they enrolled in a traditional school.

“For instance, we might have an 18-year-old student who comes from Florida and needs just six credits to graduate,” said Kelly. “In a traditional high school, he can only earn eight credits in a year; that means he’d be 21 before he graduated. We had a young lady last semester who earned six credits in about two months – she’s a perfect example of what we can offer. Here, you can accelerate through the curriculum at your own pace and get ahead.”

The school’s unique schedule of three sessions from 7:45 a.m. to 5:20 p.m., with no classes on Fridays, also gives students time to catch up or get extra help.

“We have about 300 students and try to keep class sizes in the 20 to 25 range,” said Kelly. “Students can work at their own pace, accelerate and catch up.”

The sessions are a blend of one-on-one support and computer-based instruction, a combination that has proved successful for Grier.

“I can push myself and do what I’ve got to get done,” she said. “At the other school I went to, everyone had to be at the same place at the same time. Here, the teachers push you to do better; they don’t want to hear you can’t do something. Because of that, I’ll be done in a couple of weeks and will graduate early.”

The school awarded 51 diplomas to its initial graduation class in December, and 80 are on track to finish this spring.

Information about Cobb Horizon is online at cobbk12.org/cobbhorizon.

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