With access to a computer or car, students are no longer restricted to the traditional classroom setting. Instead, AHS students have a multitude of options in college and virtual classes.
Dual credit college classes from the Move On When Ready Program (MOWR) have always been sought after by seniors. Now that these classes are available to anyone 16 years or older, Georgia Perimeter College (GPC), now part of Georgia State, has extended the opportunity to juniors as well. In addition, the new Gwinnett Tech (GTC) campus in Alpharetta has opened its doors to AHS students and others.
“Students are exploring [college classes] more. They have gotten good feedback from other students in the past who have done GPC classes or Gwinnett Tech classes so it has become very popular,” Clair Greenaway, AHS Assistant Principal, said.
The number of AHS students, at either GPC or GTC, has increased by 49% from last year. With 299 students in college classes, the repercussions for AHS classes are noticeable.
“[MOWR and Virtual classes] are good for the student. It hurts the school sometimes in terms of face-to-face teaching, brick-and-mortar-style school. We have to just get with the times,” Greenaway said.
In particular, Economics has seen a drastic reduction in classes. A year ago, ten Economics classes were shared by two teachers at AHS. This year, there are only six Economics classes, five of which are taught by Mr. Sepsey.
“There’s definitely [fewer] classes. It seems the students are doing it online or they’re doing it at Perimeter. You can’t blame them really, you get your college class paid for,” Michael Sepsey, AHS Economics teacher, said.
Economics, U.S. History, and English are the most popular subjects for virtual and college classes. Approximately 250 AHS students are enrolled in virtual classes this semester, offered by Georgia Virtual Learning and Fulton Virtual School.
“We lost a position in Social Studies because of the reduction in numbers. For virtual, social studies are the most sought-after classes,” Greenaway said.
The movement away from AHS classes has forced the school to compete with MOWR and virtual classes. This year, AHS introduced blended learning classes, where students come twice a week and stay for the extended period.
“Pacing is a little bit harder for me. It’s just like a college class basically and you got to keep up with the material,” Sepsey said.
The blended learning classes in Economics and Literature have only been offered to seniors this semester. Since these classes only meet twice a week, they require more individual work from the students. By taking college classes or blended learning, seniors have rejected the traditional class model in an effort to shorten their schedule.
Seniors in large numbers have opted for GPC classes for its flexibility, allowing them time to work on other interests.
“Now I have free time to practice for jazz band on my guitar and run some errands,” Allen Camps, AHS senior, said.
Camps, like other MOWR students, takes GPC classes in English and Social Studies. He finds the college classes to be a win-win in terms of its dual credit and biweekly schedule.
“I get college credit for the classes I take through a commendable organization in Georgia State. I find it to be a good alternative to more rigorous AP classes,” Camps said.
In one way or another, each alternative class option allows students to arrive later or leave early from school. MOWR and blended classes meet twice a week, giving AHS students freedom to do as they please in their off-periods, off-campus. Virtual classes, with parent permission, grant eligible students to do their work online at home. Factoring in Work-Based Learning and Gifted Career Internships, the exodus of upperclassmen from AHS could become a problem for the school.
“It will change the whole [school] when you have fewer teachers, fewer students here and less community out of it. Ultimately you might just see freshmen and sophomores, except students coming for extracurriculars,” Sepsey said.
This new school system seems to benefit the students heavily, allowing them variety and greater freedom. Yet, it comes at a cost for the school and its teachers. Assuming the trend continues, it seems AHS will have to adjust to the times, or fall behind.