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Charter status is secured
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The Dawson County school system has joined the ranks of 13 others in Georgia that have received greater flexibility to govern local education.

Among other aspects, that flexibility could allow officials to examine new classroom settings, sizes and times.

They could also broaden curriculum choices and expand opportunities for students at various skill levels.

The Georgia Department of Education voted last week to approve Dawson County Schools' petition for a five-year charter, a designation that grants greater autonomy from the state.

"It's a done deal," said Superintendent Keith Porter. "[The Department of Education] has offered us their congratulations."

As a result of last week's announcement, Porter said the district will begin training immediately. That training will include establishing governing boards for each school.

"We want to make sure we have everything in place so that we can have our boards functioning at the beginning of next school year," Porter said. "It will be an ongoing training."

The boards will have specific duties and responsibilities that involve assisting the school board with issues such as the budget, personnel and operating procedures.

"They'll be able to help us as we move into the future," Porter said.

He added that achieving charter system status is a milestone.

"It's just another example of the way that our school system and our community pull together to do extraordinary things," he said.

"It confirms to me the commitment our stakeholders have in doing things that are innovative and creative within our school system."

In the documentation provided to the state Department of Education, Charter Schools Division Director Louis Erste recommended the local system's proposal.

According to the document, Dawson County's model is to "provide quality instruction that results in achievement for all students through flexible scheduling, expanded opportunities for dual/joint enrollment, self-paced curriculum and virtual learning opportunities through full integration of 21st century technology and the creation of additional career pathways."

The document continued: "Dawson County seeks the broad flexibility allowed by law in exchange for the agreement to meet or exceed the goals that are set forth in the charter contract."

The charter designation lasts for five years, at which time the state commission can review it for renewal.

On Sept. 13, the Dawson County school board voted 4-0 to move forward with its charter application.

The decision followed a public hearing where parents and residents weighed in on the issue.