Students yearning for an alternative path through high school will have a new opportunity this year through Worthington Academy.

Students yearning for an alternative path through high school will have a new opportunity this year through Worthington Academy.

The new venture – built into the west end of Phoenix Middle School – will open Wednesday, Aug. 19, with the rest of Worthington City Schools.

Principal Adham Schirg said district officials know students and families live in a "choice-based environment" for education.

"Our district recognized an opportunity to create a program that offered a different pathway for students," he said. "This option can connect with students who want to graduate early, students that need flexibility in their daily schedule, do not connect in larger environments or want to pace their own learning."

He said 97 students have submitted applications thus far and four more who live outside the district are enrolling to attend Worthington Academy.

Students will attend either the morning session from 7:45 to 10:45 a.m. or afternoons from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The program was designed for juniors and seniors.

"Many will either start at or return to their home high school for elective courses," Schirg said. "Some students will go to work, Delaware Area Career Center or other options such as internships. Much of the flexibility depends on the credits students need to meet their graduation requirements."

He said there is no "typical student schedule."

"Flexibility and individualization are core values for our program," he said. "We strive to personalize as much as possible. Some examples are a student that goes to Delaware Area Career Center in the morning, comes to our program in the afternoon and then connects at their home school with a cocurricular activity."

He said another student might attend the morning session and then shuttle to a home high school for their remaining classes. Still others would attend one session and then go to a full-time job.

Tanya Kotting will be a junior at the new school.

"I wanted to attend the school because the program will give me more control over my learning," she said. "If I have momentum going on a certain subject, I will be able to continue working on that subject instead of having to change subjects just because the bell rang."

She wants to work in app development or graphic design after high school.

"The school give you a feeling of actually going to work. You have the feeling you are in the real world, even though you are still in high school," she said.

Tanya's parents, Marcy and Chris Kotting, said their daughter had started taking English 3 as an e-class in order to make her junior schedule work, but her school counselor suggested she find out more about Worthington Academy.

"I was extremely pleased with Adham Schirg and the level of excitement he and the other staff members had for helping students succeed," Mrs. Kotting said. "Tanya will also be studying at the Delaware Area Career Center, so she was already prepared for a nontraditional approach to her education."

She said she was impressed with the staff's enthusiasm for the new venture.

"As Adham put it to us, it was everyone's dream job," Mrs. Kotting said. "When teachers are that enthusiastic about what they are doing, it has to affect students positively."

Clare Volz is one of the school's teachers.

"I wanted the opportunity to work with nontraditional students," she said. "The beauty of learning is that it applies to every facet of life. Through a program like Worthington Academy, students have the opportunity to create their own academic environments and explore their passions."

She said alternative education is her passion.

"I wanted to work in and create environments where students could engage academically in ways as unique as they are," she said. "I am a member of a core team of teachers working to create a program that specializes in flexibility and individualization."

Schirg said it is the "tradition of excellence" that differentiates Worthington Academy from other charter schools or alternative choices, as the district helps students find success based around their interests and talents.

"We have passionate educators that connect with students to push their academic growth and their potential as people," he said. "Students will have access to district resources including relationships with Delaware Area Career Center, the robust offerings of cocurricular options, school counseling, diverse online content and many options throughout our school system."

Volz said her team has done much planning, brainstorming and dreaming about the new venture, "but there is no way to know how the year will go until it actually begins."

"We have worked so hard to create a student-centered, engaging and unique program and now it's time to see it put into action," she said. "I am looking forward to seeing student harness this opportunity as a means of igniting their passions and connecting them with their community."

Earlier this year, the school board approved a $369,677 construction bid by Columbus-based Palmetto Construction Services for renovations at Phoenix to house the academy.

The cost of staffing the new school was estimated at $270,000, with $85,000 and $50,000 estimated for added technology and transportation costs, respectively.

The school staff now includes four teachers, a counselor and Schirg. Two of the teachers are new hires and the rest of the staffers were reassigned from elsewhere in the district.

Students or parents interested in Worthington Academy should see a school counselor or email Schirg at aschirg@wscloud.org.