Education

Q&A about applying to attend Muscogee County’s new arts academy

This is an artist’s rendering of the Muscogee County School District’s yet-to-be-named arts academy for middle and high school students. It is being constructed at 1700 Midtown Drive, behind the Columbus Public Library and Columbus Aquatic Center off Macon Road and next to Rigdon Road Elementary School. The arts academy is scheduled to open in time for the start of next school year in August.
This is an artist’s rendering of the Muscogee County School District’s yet-to-be-named arts academy for middle and high school students. It is being constructed at 1700 Midtown Drive, behind the Columbus Public Library and Columbus Aquatic Center off Macon Road and next to Rigdon Road Elementary School. The arts academy is scheduled to open in time for the start of next school year in August. Muscogee County School District

The application period to attend the Muscogee County School District’s yet-to-be-named arts academy for middle and high school students starts next month. Here are some questions and answers about the new school, based on information from MCSD officials.

Who is eligible to attend?

MCSD students who will be in grades 6-10 are eligible to apply for the 2017-18 school year. The 11th and 12th grades will be added the following years.

When is the application period, and where are applications available?

The application period will start Dec. 2 and end Feb. 3. Applications will be available on the district’s website, www.muscogee.k12.ga.us and may be submitted through that online link. Printed copies may be obtained at the information desk in the Muscogee County Public Education Center, 2960 Macon Road, Columbus, Ga., 31906. They should be mailed to that address or left at the information desk and written to the attention of the MCSD Arts and Humanities Department.

How many students will be enrolled, and how will their selection be determined?

The arts academy is designed to educate approximately 500 students (275-300 in middle school and about 200 in high school). Admission for middle school students will be open enrollment as they apply or based on a lottery system, depending on the number of students who show an interest. Admission for high school students will require an audition or portfolio assessment, depending on the discipline in which the student wants to focus.

All prospective students will be interviewed and must have two letters of recommendation. They and one of their parents or guardians also must sign a contract.

How much interest is there in attending the arts academy?

During the two information sessions superintendent David Lewis conducted this month, first at Northside High School then at Carver High School, MCSD officials collected 362 cards expressing interest in attending.

Which arts will be taught at the academy?

Programs are expected to include music (band, chorus, guitar, orchestra and piano), dance (classical and modern), theater, technical theater, musical theater, visual art (2-D, 3-D, sculpture and photography), film and creative writing.

“Some of the disciplines have yet to be determined,” Lewis said. “It’s going to be based on interest, but we are prepared to offer all the disciplines.”

What about the academic program?

The arts academy will offer a full academic program to meet state standards required for graduation, plus courses in Advanced Placement and dual enrollment. Partnerships with community organizations such as Columbus State University, Columbus Technical College and the Springer Opera House will add further expertise to the academy’s staff.

Even the core courses of English, math, science and social studies will be infused with arts instruction. The students will be taught the same state standards as they would receive in a regular high school but sometimes in a more creative way.

What programs won’t the arts academy offer that are offered at MCSD’s traditional middle schools and high schools?

The arts academy won’t offer interscholastic sports or marching band.

The arts academy will be geared toward which types of students?

This clearly will be an excellent option for students who excel in the arts, but the academy won’t emphasize producing professional artists.

“You may do that, based on your time with us, but it’s been my experience with most arts schools, when students graduate, only 2-5 percent actually go on to perform professionally in the arts,” Lewis said. “What they do is to go on to become better doctors, better lawyers, better architects, better members of society. And it’s because we have this commitment and belief in the arts to educate the whole student.”

The academy also is designed to help students develop an emerging talent, especially middle school students who haven’t had previous formal training.

“If you have an innate or incredible work ethic and you want to come here and hone your craft for three years in order to gain entrance into the high school portion, that’s tremendous; that’s equity; that’s an opportunity for all students to be able to come to a school like this,” Lewis said.

And then there are students who for various reasons don’t thrive in a traditional school and need a more creative program to reach their potential.

Who will be the principal and on the faculty?

The district is conducting a national search for the school’s principal. Lewis said he hopes to have that leader “on board in January to help us complete some of the final details of the school.”

National searches also will be conducted to hire faculty.

“We want people who are professionals in their subject areas,” Lewis said.

Where will the arts academy be located, and when will it open?

It is being constructed at 1700 Midtown Drive, behind the Columbus Public Library and the Columbus Aquatic Center off Macon Road and next to Rigdon Road Elementary School. Construction is scheduled to be completed by June, so the academy should open on time when the new school year starts in August.

What are the details about the construction project creating the arts academy?

The $36 million project is designed to produce a three-story, 118,500-square-foot facility. Hecht Burdeshaw of Columbus is the architect, and Brasfield Gorrie of Columbus is the construction contractor. The funding comes from the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax county voters renewed in 2003, 2009 and 2015.

The academy will comprise a 650-seat auditorium with a balcony, a mini theater, a black-box theater, a recital hall, an outdoor studio, dance studios and film editing rooms.

Will transportation be provided?

The district will provide bus transportation for students to and from the academy, but families will be responsible for transporting their children to and from the required after-school rehearsals and performances that will stretch into the evenings and weekends.

“It’s a demanding commitment, but, as we say in Florida, it’s worth the squeeze,” said Lewis, who was hired in July 2013 from Polk County, Fla., where he was an associate superintendent.

When will the arts academy be named and how?

Muscogee County School Board policy allows the representative of the voting district in which a new school is located to recommend the name for the board to approve. The arts academy is in District 1, represented by board vice chairwoman Pat Hugley Green. She said a committee of community arts supporters is helping her, and she expects to recommend a name during the board’s Dec. 12 meeting.

What is the phone number to call for more information about the arts academy?

Call the MCSD Arts and Humanities Department at 706-748-2122.

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