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Back to School 2021: Groundbreaking “School of the Arts” among new instructional highlights in Gwinnett this year

July 19, 2021

     Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) is committed to ensuring students are college and career ready. We do this by providing a world class education featuring innovative approaches to classroom instruction, using cutting edge technology in state of the art facilities.

     At the district level and in our schools and clusters, teachers and school leaders are exploring new ways to engage students in their learning. GCPS continues to offer College and Career Academies at seven high school and other opportunities for students like the groundbreaking School of the Arts at Central Gwinnett High School, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement, and Dual Enrollment. Additionally, there are many other creative learning opportunities you will find in GCPS this coming year. A few include:

 

Theme schools go beyond the traditional high school experience

     GCPS’ groundbreaking School of the Arts at Central Gwinnett High School will open its state-of-the-art facility this year. Featuring more than 50,000 square feet of new space, the addition to Central Gwinnett High will serve students engaged in rigorous and engaging curriculum focused on three key areas:

  • Performing Arts— Theatre, Television and Film, Dance, and Music
  • Visual Arts— 2D-, 3D-, and Digital Art, and Fashion
  • Technology for the Arts— Film and Broadcasting, Theatre Technology, Sound Recording, and MIDI technology

     The School of the Arts’ college-preparatory curriculum combines required coursework with expanded fine arts classes, internships, and work experiences for students at a pre-professional and professional level. A unique feature of the School of the Arts are opportunities for select students to study in a Fine Arts Conservatory setting. Admittance and participation in the Conservatory program at the School of the Arts is determined through auditions, interviews, and juried presentations and performances. The signature Conservatory program provides students with expanded course opportunities, includes regular work with industry professionals, as well as participation in internships and work-based experiences. In addition, the location of the School of the Arts at Central Gwinnett High School will expand arts experiences for students throughout the Central Gwinnett Cluster (Jordan and Moore middle schools and Jenkins, Lawrenceville, Simonton, and Winn Holt elementary schools). Partnerships with the City of Lawrenceville, the Aurora Theatre, arts organizations, and postsecondary schools are a hallmark of this new program, providing students many opportunities to engage with artists, businesses, and the larger community.

     Now in its third year, McClure Health Science High School continues to open doors into the medical field for students. Students at this unique high school take part in a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum through the lens of health science: combining coursework with practical experiences in a myriad of Health Science Fields. This school is focused on “Learning Well.” Its health science focus was developed with students and their futures in mind. Health science job opportunities are growing, and students are able to earn industry certification, preparing them for the workplace or continued postsecondary experiences. The three primary health science career areas provide a focus for students’ studies in Clinical Studies with concentrations in Patient Care and Exercise Physiology, Medical Support with concentrations in Medical Front Office and Phlebotomy, and Health IT with a concentration in Health Informatics. These focus areas give students the foundation to pursue a host of careers, such as emergency responder, radiology tech, physician, medical billing clerk, medical researcher, nurse, just to name a few. The goal is to extend learning in the health science areas and to provide students with experiences and knowledge that will help support them as they transition to college and career.

     Paul Duke STEM HS, another Gwinnett theme school, is beginning its fourth year and growing its technology offerings to students. All students at Paul Duke STEM start with introductory courses in digital technology, engineering, mechatronics, electronics, graphic design, or film, which launches their STEM-focused career exploration. Students are able to earn industry certification, preparing them to enter the workforce of pursue postsecondary opportunities in high wage, high skill, and in demand STEM career fields, including growing areas in computer science. One of these areas is Cybersecurity, which is a rapidly growing career area and at Paul Duke STEM, students have more cybersecurity options than any other high school in Georgia. Some students opt to participate in a three-year (8 semesters) dual enrollment experience in partnership with Gwinnett Tech that earns college credit towards an Associate’s degree while in high school. And for approximately 25 seniors each year, the school offers a Senior Experience consisting of a cybersecurity experience with the FBI Atlanta Office and two dual enrollment courses with Mercer University – Atlanta.

Instructional News: Computer Science for All

     As computational thinking and programming become ever more pervasive in life, society, and the workforce, Gwinnett County Public Schools is committed to ensuring our students are future ready, increasing our computer science learning opportunities K-12 as a part of our Computer Science for All (CS4All) initiative, which launched last school year. Our CS4All goals are to:

  • Improve equity and access to computer science education for all students
  • Develop students as learners, users, and creators of computer science knowledge & artifacts
  • Develop student understanding of the role of computing in the world around them
  • Provide students with the knowledge and skills for future and current careers

     The initiative aims to ensure all elementary, middle, and high schools offer computer science programs and will expand those programs over the next several years so that all GCPS students will receive meaningful computer science learning experiences K-12. Nearly all of our elementary and middle schools will offer computer science in the 2021-2022 school year with plans for all schools to offer by the following year. All of our high schools currently have computer science courses for students. These programs are supplemented by extracurricular robotics programs like FIRST LEGO League (K-8), VEX Robotics (6-12), and FIRST Robotics Competition (9-12).

Berkmar Film + Digital Arts Program

     Embedded within Berkmar High School’s Media and Fine Arts Academy, the new Film + Digital Arts program offers a world-class learning experience, preparing students for careers in preproduction, production, and postproduction in Georgia’s booming film industry. The program features strong partnerships with the Georgia Film Academy, the City of Lilburn, and Gwinnett Film, and features a state-of-the-art soundstage and equipment for production, writers rooms for preproduction, and specialized editing labs for postproduction. Students who participate in the program will have access to industry recognized certifications and dual enrollment opportunities, offering students routes to both postsecondary studies and immediate entry into the workforce.

Archer, Brookwood, and Grayson Agriculture Programs

     Agriculture is a staple of the Georgia economy even in a bustling suburban community such as Gwinnett County. Advancements in agricultural technology have transformed the farming industry and brought new opportunities for tech savvy careers in a field centuries old. This year Archer, Brookwood, and Grayson high schools will begin new agricultural programs, offering students an opportunity to explore emerging trends in the industry and get hands-on experiences with the new technologies, using a combination of robotics and aquaponics or greenhouse technologies.

Dual Language Immersion (DLI) expands: Korean offered at Parsons ES

     The GCPS World Languages and Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program continues to expand and grow as the district prepares students for success in an increasingly interconnected world. At schools throughout the district, world language program offerings in elementary, middle, and high schools include Spanish, French, Latin, German, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish for Heritage Speakers, and Spanish for Native Speakers. These programs focus on communicative and cultural competencies, providing students with a strong competitive advantage as they move forward with college and into careers. Now in its eighth year, nine GCPS elementary schools have DLI programs and three middle schools feature continuation programs. DLI students at Annistown, Baldwin, Bethesda, Camp Creek, Ivy Creek, Level Creek, and Meadowcreek elementary schools learn in Spanish and English, while students at Trip Elementary learn in French and English and students at Parsons Elementary learn in Korean and English. The district’s first cohort of DLI schools, Annistown, Bethesda, and Trip elementary schools continue with all grades teaching DLI, while the first pioneer group of students from those schools are entering 7th grade at Shiloh, Sweetwater, and Bay Creek middle schools. Students who are a part of the second cohort of DLI schools at Baldwin, Camp Creek, and Ivy Creek elementary schools will complete 5th grade this school year and will be preparing to move into middle school DLI continuation programs at Summerour, Trickum, and Jones middle schools next year. The third cohort of students at Level Creek and Meadowcreek elementary schools are entering 3rd grade this year, while students learning Korean and English at Parsons Elementary, the district’s most recent DLI school, are beginning second grade. 

STEM and STEAM:

     As we kick off the 2021-2022 school year, GCPS celebrates STEM/STEAM-focused learning for students at nine certified schools and programs across the district:

  • Coleman Middle School- STEAM School Certification
  • Collins Hill High School - STEM Program Certification for its Reimagining Innovation Through Science and Engineering (RISE) Program
  • Gwinnett School of Mathematics Science and Technology (GSMST)- STEM School Certification
  • Lanier Middle School – STEM Program Certification for its Technology with Innovative Skills and Teamwork (TWIST) Program
  • Lanier High School - STEM Program Certification for its Center for Design and Technology (CDAT) Program
  • Lovin Elementary School – STEM School Certification
  • Mason Elementary School- STEM School Certification
  • Mill Creek High School - STEM Program Certification for its Experiential Project-based Innovative Collaborative & Cross-curricular (EPIC) Program
  • Peachtree Ridge High School - STEM Program Certification for its STEM Program for Innovation Rigor & Excellence (SPIRE) Program
  • White Oak Elementary School - STEM School Certification     

 

     Each of these schools has been awarded the certification designated by the Georgia Department of Education STEM/STEAM Program. Additionally, more than 20 Gwinnett schools are pursuing STEM certification. Those who were awarded STEM/STEAM Certification designation in May will celebrate their certification in the late fall with recognition and receipt of a certification banner presented by State School Superintendent Woods.

     Other STEM/STEAM initiatives include every elementary school offering FIRST Lego League robotics competitive teams; and STEM experiences—project based learning, coding, robotics, and enhanced science, math, and career and technical education options— in classrooms across the county; extracurricular competitions in STEM. Ask about STEM or STEAM opportunities at our local schools and learn more about how GCPS is bringing learning to life.

Partnership with Junior Achievement (JA) going strong:

     The 2021-22 school year marks year seven for the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett, which provides hands-on experiences in financial literacy for 6th and 8th grade students. Annually, the Center serves approximately 55,000 students through JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. Ninety-six percent of teachers whose students attended the Center said they saw students effectively developing and integrating high-order skills including creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication & innovation. In addition, the JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett involved more than 4,000 community volunteers, of which 99 percent said it was a “best-in-class experience and would recommend it to friends and colleagues.” Volunteers are a key to the Center’s operations. Those interested in volunteering at JA Discovery Center at Gwinnett should email VolunteerGwinnett@georgia.ja.org.

     3DE is a JA program that connects high school students to business leaders and entrepreneurs at Norcross High School, Parkview High School, and South Gwinnett High School. 3DE challenges students to think critically and engage in their learning as they prepare for a successful future. 3DE students gain real-world experience through visits to community businesses, mentoring, networking with professionals, tackling dynamic case studies, and more.

 

College and Career Academies: 

     Seven Gwinnett high schools—Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Discovery, Lanier, Meadowcreek, Shiloh, and South Gwinnett—continue to build their college and career academies. The academies give students a preview of potential careers as they learn core subjects through the lens of an academic or career theme. Through job-shadowing, internships, and project-based learning, students not only learn from experience and collaborate with peers, they also have the opportunity to earn money. In fact, during the 2020-21 school year, 244 students contributed 83,284 intern hours, earning a total of $576,521 through career and technical education work-based learning opportunities.

To learn more about any of these initiatives, contact Bernard Watson, director of community relations, at 678-301-6020.