MARIETTA — Over the next year, high school students in Marietta and in Cobb County will be better able to take the next step in their academic or professional careers, thanks to the addition of college and career academies in the districts.

Marietta’s academy is about 50% complete, and Cobb’s is about 15% complete, according to updates from respective district officials on Friday.

College and career academy at Marietta High School

Superintendent Grant Rivera and members his staff invited the MDJ on a tour of the district’s 55,000-square-foot college and career academy on Friday. The $12.3 million facility, for which the district broke ground in July 2018, is expected to be complete by December, Rivera said.

Keith Ball, principal at Marietta High School, said programs will start moving into the building in January.

“The anticipation is kind of killing me,” he said.

Ball said the new, three-story facility, which will be connected to Marietta High School by bridges on multiple levels, will help to modernize courses already being offered and will better replicate a college or career setting.

The academy will offer the space for more focused instruction in industries including engineering, game design and entrepreneurship, among others, according to Julie O’Meara, CEO of the college and career academy and director of the district’s Career, Technology, and Agriculture Education programs.

O’Meara said the facility’s offerings will work hand-in-hand with the district’s Career, Technology and Agriculture Education program.

Angela Sparks, career adviser at Marietta High School, said the district aims to create a pipeline from Marietta High School to industries with gaps in their skilled worker base through collaboration with business and industry partners.

“We want all of the career academy and the school, wall-to-wall, to mirror what’s happening in business and industry,” Sparks said. “Because of the ... Baby Boomers and the Generation X leaving so many fields, like construction and healthcare science fields, there’s a huge gap. And we know that there’s more opportunities in so many different fields than there are employees.”

Sparks also said students will be able to earn internship credits and industry certifications while, in some cases, earning more than minimum wage on job sites.

The academy’s bottom level will host the engineering labs; the second level will include game design, entrepreneurship and information technology labs, as well as a coffee shop and college advising assistance; and on the third level, teachers and students from the school’s newspaper and yearbook staff will work to grow the journalism program, O’Meara said.

With the facility will also come the creation of new pathways in construction and nursing, she said. The nursing program and dual enrollment expansions allowed by the construction of the academy will be developed in partnership with Chattahoochee Technical College, Georgia Highlands College and Kennesaw State University, according to O’Meara.

Cobb Career Academy at Osborne High

The $14.5 million Cobb Career Academy, which is being constructed on the campus of Osborne High School, is slated for completion in May 2020. Students are expected to occupy the building in August of that year.

Ground was broken for the project shortly after the district’s approval of the construction contract in March.

The district did not respond to updated questions about the academy by press time Friday, instead directing the MDJ to public information published in March.

The academy will function much like the district’s six magnet programs, but will be “more geared to preparing students for a career tech pathway,” according to a press release from Nan Kiel, a spokesperson for the school district.

“The students who attend will be even more equipped to start successful careers after high school or further their training at a technical school or college,” Kiel wrote.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said while all Cobb’s classrooms aim to prepare students for their future career or college experiences, the academy will focus on training them for high-demand jobs now and looking forward.

Kiel said the academy will allow students from across the district to sharpen their science, technology, engineering and math skills, as well as earn industry-recognized certifications. The building will have a capacity of 500 students, she said.

Like Marietta’s academy, Cobb’s will be an extension of the district’s Career, Technology, and Agriculture Education programs, according to Jennifer Lawson, Cobb’s chief academic officer.

Lawson said academy students will have access to job shadowing, industry field trips and pathway-specific honor societies.

She said the district has identified three “pillars” on which the academy’s curriculum will be based: maker industries, emerging technologies and community and health care services.

The maker industries pillar is expected to include automotive, carpentry, electrical, HVAC, masonry, plumbing and welding pathways. The emerging technologies pillar, which Lawson said would likely not be available the first year of the academy’s opening, is expected to offer cyber security, energy and power and networking pathways. And the health care services option would include clinical lab, emergency medical responder, patient care, phlebotomy and surgical technology pathways.

Kiel said Cobb Career Academy students will be fulltime Osborne students, meaning they will complete their core and Career, Technology, and Agriculture Education coursework as an Osborne student. However, although the academy will be located on the Osborne campus, it will be open to any rising 9th grader in the county, she said.

The construction project is being funded through a special 1% sales tax for education approved by Cobb voters in 2013.

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