Army Spc. Aimee Willis grew up in a military family, so she knows what it’s like to pick up and move in the middle of the school year.
“I had to play a lot of catch-up growing up,” said Willis, who moved five times before she was 9 years old. “You either have to love it or hate it.”
But students from military families coming to Fort Benning won’t have to worry so much about catching up on lessons when they transfer into local schools or whether they’ll be eligible for the HOPE scholarship, after Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed two pieces of legislation into law Thursday morning.
Senate Bill 114 will help expedite the processing of records for transferring students and allow for waivers of some course pre-requisites, like Georgia history, that might delay on-time graduation. The law also allows students from military families more excused absences when a parent deploys or returns home.
Under House Bill 484, children of active military personnel who are transferred to Georgia will automatically qualify for the HOPE scholarship, if they maintain a 3.0 grade point average. Usually, a student must live in Georgia for a year to establish residency before they can receive HOPE.
Both laws will take effect July 1.
“These two bills make it easier to gain an education with less hassle,” Perdue said during the signing ceremony at Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning.
About 6,800 students are expected to come to local schools in the Chattahoochee Valley after the U.S. Army relocates the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning.
The Muscogee County School System is expecting to receive the majority of the students — about 4,300 — and superintendent Susan Andrews said the new laws will make the transition smoother for those students whose parents are active military.
Before the new law, the school district had to deal with each transfer differently on an individual basis.
She said they had one student transfer who couldn’t play high school tennis until the district contacted the Georgia High School Association for permission.
“Now we won’t have to jump through bureaucratic red tape,” Andrews said.
Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, the commanding general of Fort Benning, said the law will make moving to a new school easier on the children of military personnel. He said soldiers take an oath to serve their country and are expected to go to wherever their military orders take them.
“Their children take no such oath,” he said. “They share their parents with all of America. They are the ones who have to deal with multiple deployments ... They are the ones who are uprooted with every move. They have enough on their plate without having to worry about different pre-requisites.”