Foothills Charter High School

Baldwin Superintendent Dr. Noris Price speaks with faculty and staff about the upcoming Foothills Charter High School.

Foothills Education Charter High School (FECHS), which first opened its doors last August, has completed its first semester of operation at the Baldwin site. 

FECHS is a charter high school that provides students a second chance to earn an accredited Georgia high school diploma. 

Its newest location, located at the Baldwin College and Career Academy, launched Aug. 19. 

At the most recent Baldwin County Board of Education meeting, the school's executive director, Dr. Sherry Gibney-Sherman, and Dr. Verlinda Samuels, Baldwin High School assistant principal and Foothills site director, discussed the success of the first semester and updated the board on initiatives for moving forward. 

"FECHS is a wonderful school that we brought into Baldwin County this past August. We have seven sites and Baldwin is one of newest sites. Overall, as of Jan. 15, we have 817 students across the seven sites. Baldwin is one of our smaller sites. Right now we have close to 80 students," Sherman said.  

The goal in moving forward for the spring semester and upcoming 2016-2017 academic year is to increase enrollment numbers at the Baldwin FECHS site. 

"We need more people to know that it's operational, it's happening and it's working. This is a fabulous solution to kids and adults in your community to receive their diploma," she added. 

Sherman is currently working with BHS counselors and Dr. Cloise Williams, BHS principal, to target more students who may fit the charter high school set up in order to obtain their diploma. 

Officials from Foothills are also reaching out to schools in surrounding counties. 

"I sent a team out to six of your neighboring counties to see if there are any students who we haven't reached. That's underway right now. Also I'm bringing a team down to see that we are doing all that we can for the kids in this community."

Some students at Foothills, those who were a mere class or two away from graduating before circumstances pulled them away from receiving their high school diploma, graduated during the first semester. 

Thus far, the charter high school has 16 graduates in the 2015-2016 academic year. Besides Baldwin, the graduates also come from Barrow, Clarke and Madison counties. 

Plans are underway to hold a graduation in May.

"We have a graduation plan for you. It's May 19 and it's going to be a regular graduation. We are really proud that kids are walking around with a diploma that they never thought they would have," Sherman said. 

Also during the school board presentation, Samuels highlighted specific data pertaining to the Baldwin FECHS site and a new program the school is offering, using the area charter high school as a pilot. 

"As Dr. Sherman mentioned, we are seeking more students to come and join our Foothills program. Currently we have 79 students enrolled: 35 freshmen, 24 sophomores, 13 juniors and seven seniors. Out of those seniors we have three on track to graduate May 19. I know that's a low number, but as you can see the bulk of our enrollment is freshmen and sophomores. And that's OK because we intend on keeping them there until they do graduate. We are here to serve all of them," she said. 

After receiving interest from older adults who wanted to attend the charter school, the idea to pilot a program specifically designed for this type of non-traditional student was created. 

"We also have a program for older students. It's called the Foothills Plus program.

The Foothills Plus program starts at 7 p.m. and is for students who are older and lack the credits to have completed high school, Samuels added. 

There is a fee to join the Foothills Plus program, and similar to traditional Foothills students, older adults may work at their own pace. 

For more information email Dr. Verlinda Samuels at verlinda.samuels@foothillscharter.org or Teresa Phillips at teresa.phillips@foothillscharter.org. 

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