As summer comes to an end and a new school year begins, school officials are looking for new ways to help students achieve success. Teachers say in Georgia and across America, there is a huge problem with 9th graders.
Billy Esra is a teacher in the 9th grade academy and he said, "That's when we lose them; that's why the dropout rate is high, because they get behind in 9th grade and they never catch up."
To change this, Thomas County Central High School has started a 9th grade FOCUS academy, which stands for Freshmen Opportunities College Ultimate Success. The 9th grade teachers are also split into teams and discuss how to help students succeed.
Will Lewis is also a first year teacher and he said, "We'll learn more from each other just as we learn from the students. I feel like the team concept, the entire academy concept will be good for the teachers as well as the students."
The school also went under construction to get ready for the program. An additional wing was built specifically for the 9th grade academy, keeping them separate from the rest of the school.
School officials hope that keeping the students separated will keep students focused on their first year of high school, and the 9th graders say they don't mind.
Caleb Heard is a student in the academy and he said, "I like it, but I'd rather be with everybody else, but I know it’s going to help us when we get older."
Josh Choice is also a student in the academy and he said, "I like it ‘cause you don't have to worry about seniors picking on you."
Students will still have the chance to mingle with the rest of the high school when they take their elective courses. Teachers at Thomas County Central also say they plan to do more for parent involvement with 9th graders.