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Catawba County's newest innovative school is days away from opening its doors to students and a fresh start.
Hickory Career and Arts Magnet (HCAM) school will open Aug. 25 after two months of renovations and new curriculum.
HCAM was created to offer students another option outside of tradition school to explore career interests and provide a chance to earn free college credits. The new school became a reality with Hickory Public Schools received a turnaround grant for $2 million to change Catawba Valley High School.
"Everyone is pitching in," said HCAM principal Kelly Owen, who was hired the end of July.
Owen said teachers are painting walls and moving items into classrooms with joyful attitudes.
English teacher Cassandra Martin said the school is going to be a great addition to the community.
"I think this is a great thing for the community," Martin said. "Students are not just going to have the basics, but a chance to be extremely creative."
Martin and fellow English teacher Amanda Graham are two of four teachers returning to the building from the former Catawba Valley High School. CVHS previously housed students with learning and behavioral issues and last ranked as having a 19 percent graduation rate. After applying and receiving the $2 million grant, Hickory Public Schools decided to make a transition and offer area students an opportunity to explore their creativity while still engaging in traditional high school courses.
"As a parent of a child who needed a school like this, I think this will be good for Catawba County," Graham said. "Students will get a leg up into the future and know what they are going to do."
Owen said HCAM anticipates enrolling 100 students for its Magnet program for the first year. The first year at the school, some students will take basic core classes, while upperclassmen, such as 11th graders, will have a chance to explore acting, graphic design and advertising, criminal justice and forensics, and firefighter technology. Next year, the school will add dance and cosmetology, and in the third year, culinary arts and photography will become part of the school's curriculum.
So far, Owen said administration has seen a large interest in cosmetology and forensic science students. Because the school can take 20 applicants per grade level for each career study, Owen anticipates a waiting list in the future. For students who want to study one of the careers not available for another year or two, she said they will start their future-ready, career technology classes that are required for a high school diploma.
"It's going to be so neat to walk down the hall and see students doing hair and forensic science; to be in their element and engaged," Owen said.
There will be about 10 HCAM teachers employed through the school district teaching basic core curriculum. Catawba Valley Community College will send teachers for students in the career-specific courses.
On the right side of the school, where the Catawba Valley Chapter American Red Cross was previously housed, will be the Core Academy. This portion of the school is for students in seventh through 10th grade that leave their home school for a semester to regroup and get back on a productive educational track. The number of students accepted from each district will be based on the school system's size.
"It is a proactive approach," Owen said. "Instead of waiting (until students develop a problem), we are reaching out to them now."
The American Red Cross is now located at 1375 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd. in Hickory.
Cosmetic changes to the school include new landscaping and entrance to the school. The entrance will be at the front of the school and have steps leading up to the front doors. In addition, Owen said there will be a marque in front of the school to list upcoming events for students and parents.
"The biggest challenge in scope is from the facility to personnel to a schedule with CVCC," said HPS Superintendent Dr. Lillie Cox. "We worked a lot to get it all worked out. It's been a really roll-up-your-sleeves and work-hard summer."
Another unique characteristic for the school is the HCAM logo colors will be incorporated throughout the building in the floor. The logo, which is apple slices in lime green, yellow and red, will be colored in the tile on the floor. Currently, the colors are only in certain parts of the building. However, Owen said by the start of the 2011-12 school year, the colors will be throughout the entire school.
"We want students to be creative and take ownership in the new school," Owen said.
As for student drivers, Owen anticipates there will be enough parking spaces available for students because most of the new students are ninth graders without driver's licenses.
Students interested in sports will be allowed to join activities through Hickory High School. Owen said as an interest develops in clubs among students and teachers, administration will take a look at adding organizations at HCAM.
"I'm excited about the new environment and helping establish the culture from the ground up and being a part of such an innovative school," Owen said. "I feel like this (job) was created for me."
Owen plans to review each entering child's academic records and sit down individually with students and parents to make sure children are placed in courses they are interested in.
HCAM graduates will receive a high school diploma and will have a choice of going to CVCC or a four-year university.
Upcoming informational sessions include Aug. 16 at Northview Middle School and Aug. 17 at Newton Main Library. Both sessions are from 6-7 p.m. Also, the school will have an open house on Aug. 24 from 4-6 p.m. The school is housed at the old CVHS building, 409 Eighth Ave. NE in Hickory. The school is taking applications for the upcoming school year.
School starts Aug. 25 and students will attend classes from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, contact Owen or assistant principal Cherie Chandler at (828) 328-6783 or e-mail Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit HCAM's website at www.hcamatcollegepark.com.