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BOE votes to make Maxwell a charter school

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted Thursday to approve Maxwell High School of Technology's petition to convert to a charter school.

The school is seeking flexibility that would allow more students to earn dual enrollment credits and graduate with business- and industry-recognized credentials, such as the Georgia Work Ready certification, said Steve Flynt, the school district's chief academic officer.

The school's structure would not change, Flynt said. High school juniors and seniors enrolled in Maxwell's technical education programs would continue to attend the school for half of the day.

"The school's mission is not changing," Flynt said. "We hope to build on it with conversion to charter status."

Charter schools are public schools designed to operate independent of federal, state and local regulation in exchange for increased accountability in student achievement.

Gwinnett County Public Schools currently operated two charter schools - New Life Academy of Excellence in Norcross and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, which will move into a new building adjacent to Maxwell in August.

Maxwell wants to develop innovative programs that would provide significant benefits for students, Flynt said. For example, the school wants to develop dual enrollment offerings for all program areas through proposed partnerships with Gwinnett Technical College, Lanier Technical College and Middle Georgia College. Maxwell also wants to align the course content with technical college programs to provide seamless articulation and dual enrollment credit opportunities.

The school also wants to increase the number of internship and apprenticeship opportunities for second-year students and provide mastery-based credit for some courses and programs.

Those changes would provide a seamless transition to postsecondary pursuits and motivate students to complete programs, Flynt said.

Gwinnett County Board of Education member Robert McClure said he thinks the school's petition "utilizes the charter school law in a way that is appropriate and beneficial to students in the county."

He praised the staff at Maxwell for having "the foresight and insight to move to the next level."

"I think this really does raise the ceiling," he said.

Maxwell's charter petition will be sent by Nov. 1 to the Georgia Department of Education, and the state school board will have until March to vote on the application. If approved, Maxwell's charter status would begin in August.

"I think of all the things we've done lately, this is one of the most exciting things," Gwinnett school board member Carole Boyce said. "It is so for the future. It's just a perfect, perfect setting and just a wonderful opportunity for our students."