Students from Butts County and surrounding areas who dropped out of high school will be able to start work in Jackson as soon as next summer on getting their diplomas.

The Board of Education on Nov. 12 voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement to be part of the Heartland Education Charter High School. Butts County will join Bibb County to form the charter school, which will offer non-traditional students a chance to earn a regular high school diploma by taking evening classes.

Classes will start in January in Bibb County, with classes starting at Jackson High School in July, according to Butts County School Superintendent Todd Simpson.

Local school officials have been exploring the proposal for more than a year, with school board members having been briefed on the idea first in April. The name under consideration until recently was Middle Georgia Education Charter High School.

Heartland Education Charter High School is modeled on charter schools created by public school systems in other parts of the state, including Mountain Education Charter High School based in Cleveland, Ga., Coastal Plains Charter High School based in Metter, and Foothills Education Charter High School based in Danielsville. Each of those charter schools has a number of satellite centers where students are able to attend afternoon and evening classes and sit for testing.

Simpson said Mountain Education began about 25 years ago, and was used as the model for Foothills, which is assisting with the creation of Heartland.

Under the agreement approved by the Butts County Board of Education, the Butts and Bibb county school districts will provide classroom space from 3:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, as well as office space. Simpson has previously said that includes Butts County covering the cost of lights in the building, computers, custodial services and a school resource officer for security.

Heartland will reimburse the systems for those costs out of the state dollars allotted for students in the program.

The initial costs for Butts County would be $65,000 split over two budget years. Simpson said half of the money would be due next July to offset startup expenses. The Butts County system would be reimbursed $60,000 for use of the facilities. The second half of Butts County’s startup commitment would be due in 2021.

Simpson said once the startup money has been paid, the charter high school is self-funded out of state money that follows each student in a public school.

School officials expect the Butts County campus of Heartland Education could serve 50 to 100 students in the first 12 months, and because it has a statewide attendance zone, students from surrounding counties including Henry, Jasper and Spalding could attend in order to earn their high school diplomas.

Managing Editor

Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.

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