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Sims Academy promises a unique experience

POSTED: August 11, 2014 10:44 a.m.
Zac Taylor / For the Barrow County News/

The outside of the Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology in its second week of being open to students. Some construction is still ongoing.

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The students are associates, the teachers are trainers. There are no bells, and soon a coffee shop – run by associates in the marketing department – will welcome visitors in the front lobby.

This is Barrow County’s just-opened career academy, the Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology, and the different type of feeling is no accident.

“Kids have noticed the difference,” noted principal/CEO (another difference) Marc Dastous. “Everything is designed toward business. You wouldn’t hear bells in a business environment, so why have them here?”

He added that for most of the students, it’s a welcome change from the traditional school structure, at least for the half day they are at the academy.

“The kids are upbeat, busy, jumping in with both feet,” he said. “I said to them on the first day, ‘I trust you, because I want you to feel that this place is yours.

“If you set the bar high enough, they will meet it.”

The current students are already feeling the excitement, as the smiles and excitement throughout the classrooms displayed.

And this positive reception has come about despite many observers doubting the building, south of Highway 316 near Hog Mountain Road, would even be ready to welcome students just a week prior to last Friday’s opening.

One of those observers was even Dastous’ own wife, as he recalled with a laugh.

Even he was a little surprised, but with the help of those in the school system along with contractors and subcontractors, doors were open for students, even if the downstairs of the C wing won’t be ready for a few weeks.

“This by far surpasses my expectation of what we would be able to achieve so quickly,” he said.

In fact, students were even happy to help out. Dastous noted that in the construction classroom on day one students helped set up everything along with the teacher.

Just two teachers are currently displaced due to that, Dastous said, but both are able to have classes in open computer labs until they can move.

There are actually a number of open classrooms at the school, attesting to the growth that is expected down the road.

Currently, around 200 students are in the school at any time, Dastous said, but the academy has a 600-person capacity.

As word gets further out about the new place, Dastous and other administrators are confident that the rest will make it down.

He wants to make it easier for more students to come as well, which is why he’s made an emphasis on having a number of general education classes at the school in addition to the mechatronics, engineering, video broadcast, culinary and more that the school specializes in. That way, since students are bussed over for two block-class stretches (half the day), some will be able to complete regular classes like Spanish, economics, and possibly even AP classes at some point as well as specialized classes.

It’s those unique classes though which are what is driving the excitement around the new school, as well as the technology around many of those classes.

“We made sure the equipment we purchased would be the same as what they would use in the real world,” he said.

The culinary arts class includes a fully functioning commercial kitchen that will at some point be used to make meals for an in-house restaurant.

The horticulture class is already preparing to start planting in the brand new greenhouse.

Two separate classes have new laser engravers, and the construction class has all the tools needed to build a fully functioning backyard dollhouse (wired for electrical and cable) that will be raffled off over the winter.

The video production class even has the capability to livestream multiple events on campus and remotely, starting with the school’s own ribbon cutting in early September.

It's then that Dastous is hopeful that the building will be completely finished.

However, he’s always looking to go bigger. For instance: The video production department already has livestream capability, video cameras and even a large green room still being finished, but a few years down the road there’s a possibility of a video van.

“There’s so much room for growth,” he said.



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