Half of the campus at 1910 Morrison Campground Road — the old Johnson Elementary School building — is designated as the county’s Transitional Academy for at-risk students. The other half is set apart as the Performance Learning Center.
The staff at the Education Center starts with a vision for students who have made a number of bad choices in their lives.
Asked where he would be if not in the ninth grade academy classroom, Andrew Baldelamar said, “I probably would’ve dropped out.”
“It’s been a life changer,” said Jade Wells, a junior by age but a senior in the classroom, where credits don’t come by the calendar but by self-progression.
And graduation doesn’t come in May. It happens when the student completes his or her credits.
“They put on a cap and gown, and our students line the hall for them to walk,” said Principal Melinda Strickland.
Members of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce committee got a tour of the facility Friday. Most of the attention was focused on the Performance Learning Center, which has already produced 44 graduates in less than two years since the program started.
“We think outside the bubble,” Strickland said. “Our kids aren’t here to bubble in test scores. We’re here to help them be better people. If they can’t be at work on time, if they don’t have good work ethics, if they can’t be responsible, have good communication skills, manners, you don’t want them in your facility.”
Strickland said the students at the PLC get the same academics, but the staff at the PLC delivers the learning in a different way. Students work at their own pace. Some students might earn two credits in a semester, others earn as many as seven.
Students at the PLC are generally underachievers in the traditional classroom. Many of them aren’t interested in after-school clubs or athletics; they just want to get through school.
Assistant Principal Dale Hamby said that 100 percent of the students who have reached senior class status have graduated.
“We expect excellence, but we meet them where they are,” Strickland said. “We celebrate each student.”
The program is working and working well. The school has been notified that it will be recognized as one of the top 10 in the nation at the National Alternative Education Conference.
“It’s an honor, not necessarily for the teachers and staff, but for our students,” Strickland said.