CANTON — The Cherokee County School Board has approved a contract with Mountain Education Center for the center to operate its Polaris Evening School, which the district says will provide more opportunities to the students enrolled there and improve graduation rates.

The contract was approved Thursday for the center to begin this summer managing summer high school course recovery. If that goes well, according to district officials, a Mountain Education Charter High School will take over Polaris Evening School, which enrolls about 150 students.

Polaris serves students who may have dropped out of high school, work or take care of children during the day or have fallen behind. Some take evening classes to get ahead in high school credits.

According to school district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby, the Mountain Education program promises more services at the same cost to the district. At its existing schools across north Georgia including in neighboring Pickens and Forsyth counties, the center offers one-on-one coaching and mentoring to its students. They also provide dinner from a partnering restaurant.

“They’re very successful in helping students recover credits and graduate, and that’s our goal,” Jacoby said. “We want our alternative high school programs to help students graduate and be ready to advance to college, careers or the military. We want them to graduate, and we think Mountain Ed will help us be more successful.”

Superintendent Brian Hightower has said he wants to increase the district’s graduation rate to 93 percent in five years.

Mountain Education plans to hire the same CCSD teachers who currently teach in the Polaris program, and use the Etowah East facility that houses the program.

Also at the meeting:

Reinhardt University announced a new partnership with the district in which it is now providing an educational pathway for CCSD employees. Teachers and paraprofessionals can enroll in Reinhardt’s education graduate programs at a reduced tuition rate. The university will offer 15% discounts to CCSD employees on specific degree programs including master of education, master of fine arts in creative writing and master of art in teaching. The master of art in teaching will include a program just for paraprofessionals interested in advancing to full-time teaching.

Issued a $9.75 million short-term loan in the form of a Tax Anticipation Note to First-Citizens Bank and Trust Company, which offered the lowest interest rate bid to the school district. The loan, with an interest rate of 1.76%, will be paid back by the end of the year. The TAN is being issued to cover an anticipated lack of revenue before property taxes are collected later this year.

Updated health and sex education curriculum in grades 5-9 to comply with Erin’s Law, which passed in the Georgia Legislature last year. The law requires lessons on preventing and recognizing sexual abuse. The new curriculum was reviewed by a committee that included parents in a series of meetings beginning in the spring.

Renewed an annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity to run Head Start and prekindergarten at the Ralph Bunch Center and Johnston Preschool.

The next school board meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17 at 1205 Bluffs Parkway in Canton.

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Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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