ReTHINCing education in Troup County
LaGRANGE — There are no rules at Troup County’s newest school – only expectations, according to its executive director, Kathy Carlisle.
When the THINC College and Career Academy off Orchard Hill Road opens its doors Aug. 10, it will be OK for students to sip soft drinks in classrooms while scrolling through their mobile phones. There’s a catch, though; the students are expected to mean business. That is, after all, what THINC is all about.
“The students will be expected to behave like adults in a work setting,” Carlisle told Rotary Club of LaGrange members on a tour of the new school Wednesday.
The 60,000-square-foot facility is unlike any other school in the Troup County School System. For starters, it’s a charter school. Once it’s fully operational, between 400 and 500 students from each of TCSS’s three high schools will pass through the hallways each day. They’ll be able to take classes ranging from advanced placement civics to criminal justice and welding. Students will even be able to earn college credit from West Georgia Technical College at the same time they earn their high school diploma.
The massive building, which was built in 1986 and was once used to manufacture missile-guidance systems and landmines, looks nothing like the factory it once was – nor does it really look like a school. The walls are painted in cheery tones and soft lights shine on funky furniture and colorful carpet tiles. Computers line the walls of rooms the size of a small house and robots sit waiting in million-dollar classrooms.
It cost $9.2 million to bring THINC to where it is today, and the money was raised through public and private funds, according to Carlisle, who came to THINC after working as a dean at Columbus State University.
“It’s been quite a journey getting here,” she said. “It really started in 2006 when Kia came in (to Troup).”
Realizing the need to have a more skilled workforce, THINC was created to teach students about engineering, energy, health care and business management. The great majority learning at the academy happens hands on, Carlisle said. There’s a medical education classroom that’s modeled after real emergency rooms. A mannequin will be able to simulate a heart attack and other emergencies. Eventually, Carlisle said THINC aims to bring in real doctors to operate a “Good Samaritan” clinic that will serve the community and also provide students with real-life work experience.
If going into nursing isn’t a student’s desired path, he or she can learn about running a business in the coffee shop that will open in the school’s lobby. The shop will be fully operational and run by students for them to learn about business management and enterprise.
Beginning this year, students in grades 11 and 12 will be able to take classes at THINC. Next year, grades 9 and 10 will be added, Carlisle said. Students with a driver’s license and a vehicle will be allowed to drive to THINC, and county school buses will transport the rest. Any student in Troup’s public high schools can take classes at THINC. In all county high schools, classes are divided into four blocks throughout the day. There are two blocks in the morning and two in the afternoon. Students will either take their morning two blocks at THINC or their afternoon blocks – meaning two different groups will go through the school each day.
THINC isn’t done yet, either. Next year, Carlisle hopes to have an outdoor classroom up and running where students can learn about wind, solar and water power. That program, which is a partnership with Georgia Tech, is currently in its design phase, Carlisle said.
Carlisle said she hopes to have the community involved, too. Businesses are invited – even encouraged – to use what she calls the academy’s “board room” classroom for meetings, and she hopes to have local business owners come and speak to classes and students.
“This is our gift to the community,” she said.
For more information about the THINC College and Career Academy, visit www.thincacademy.net or call 706-668-6804.