Community News Array of nontraditional school options allow Catoosa students to customize education experience

Community News Array of nontraditional school options allow Catoosa students to customize education experience

New College and Career Academy in the works

August 16th, 2017 by Gabrielle Chevalier in Community North Georgia

Lauren Alaina received her high school diploma during the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe graduation ceremonies on May 31, 2013, in McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

In an ongoing quest to meet a broader range of student needs, Catoosa County Schools expects to expand its high school options even further by 2021 with the addition of the College and Career Academy.

Now only in the beginning of planning phases, the program is one of many alternative models which Catoosa has put together over the past five years in an effort to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate, said Catoosa County Schools communication specialist Marissa Brower.

"We think it's important, especially for today's students, for them to have options," she said. "When I was in high school, everyone went to high school. But that traditional model doesn't work for every student. And we want every student in a Catoosa County school to graduate with a diploma. ... For us to accomplish 'Graduate Catoosa,' we need to build something to where there is no excuse not to graduate."

The new, conceptual program will partner with area businesses to determine the needs and employment opportunities in Catoosa County, specializing classes to give students the skills and education they need to join the local workforce.

Catoosa Online Academy was the first alternative method in the county's quest to offer options to help students graduate. It was inspired by then-Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe student Lauren Alaina, who wanted to continue her studies and graduate from the school on time, even though she was across the country participating in "American Idol."

"So we found a way to let her take LFO classes and graduate," Brower said. "So conceptually, it started with that need and that problem. ... Then we realized that, for whatever reason, there might be other students who would be interested in this."

In the beginning, the online learning option drew approximately 50 students, said Director of Technology Steve Sawyer, who heads up the program. Last year, that number grew to an estimated 125-150.

The online option is available to both middle schoolers who wish to advance to a high school course, as well as high schoolers who prefer online coursework to day-to-day classes. Brower said the program allows students to tailor a schedule to meet their needs. Students involved in high-level extracurriculars which involve a lot of travel can also benefit from the program, as can those who are homebound due to illness or injury, she added.

Students can take all courses online or pick and choose, making it a worthwhile option to pair with the school system's other nontraditional education options, such as the Move On When Ready program, which allows students to obtain an associate degree at no cost while still enrolled in high school.

"We're just trying to provide another avenue," Sawyer said.

Last year, the academy's graduation rate was 85.5 percent.

To find out more about Catoosa Online Academy or other nontraditional school options for county students, visit

Email Gabrielle Chevalier at