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Local students soon will have the option of taking biblical-based courses to fulfill high school elective requirements.
Dawson County Christian Learning Center, a nonprofit and accredited institution, is seeking high school seniors to take part in its inaugural class that begins in January.
The courses are taught away from the high school campus, typically at nearby churches, by teaching professionals at no cost to the student.
"At first, because of logistical reasons, we're focusing on high school seniors, because they typically have cars and can get to class on their own," said Brooke Anderson, board chairman of the center.
"Later on, we're hoping to open it to younger high school students and maybe middle school."
Ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952, released time religious education is completely funded by donations, without the use of tax dollars.
"We exist to prepare students spiritually, academically, emotionally and socially for God's call on their lives," Anderson said.
The center is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools through the Walton County Christian Learning Center, a program in the Loganville area.
Dawsonville First Baptist Pastor Russell Davis served as a youth minister in Loganville for seven years and now sits on the local program's board of directors.
As a minister, Davis said he has witnessed so many positives for those involved.
"The students began to grow spiritually," he said. "It really opened up some avenues to show that Christianity was more than the confines of the church walls.
"We experienced students that either could not, or whose parents would not let them, attend church putting their faith in Jesus Christ through the CLC. It was a bridge being gapped in the culture of Christianity."
A father of three, board member George Parson said the courses give students the "ability to choose a new opportunity that's been kept away from public school for too long."
"I think the biggest attraction is, historically, we've had a separation of church and state," he said. "To give my child the ability to take these courses during regular class time and to have the opportunity to expand their knowledge through Biblical teaching is very intriguing."
Course topics range from family, community and career to comparative religions, life skills and current issues. They're based on scripture principles, with the Bible as the textbook.
Each course carries one elective credit hour. For January, the course will be taught during a zero period, from 7 to 8 a.m., to avoid conflicts with previously selected elective courses.