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Gwinnett high school opens in mall
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Gwinnett high school opens in mall

Gwinnett high school opens in mall

Gwinnett high school opens in mall

School in a mall-- it might just be the dream of some students but one in Gwinnett County will be dedicated later today.

Phoenix High School’s new satellite location at Sugarloaf Mills will open its doors to students on Monday. Intended for 45 students, enrollment has already more than doubled. 

“They may work in the mall. They may live close by. They may frequent this area. This is on the public transportation route. So, it’s a good opportunity for students to have a place where they can come work or it’s close to their home,” says Gwinnett Schools Associate Superintendent Steven Flynt.

Phoenix High School’s main campus in Lawrenceville serves students who may have trouble learning in a traditional school setting or had gap years in between learning. 

Principal Donna Scott says 55 percent of students are 18 or older. 

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Gwinnett high school opens in mall

“The purpose of the school is to (serve) those students that have had, in many instances, catastrophic life events interrupt their education,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.

She says the new satellite location will offer another opportunity for them to be close to work and make a living while getting an education to help advance their career opportunities.

“Gwinnett has an incredibly rigorous curriculum which we do hold tight. Nothing is done differently except, perhaps, a different schedule or a different type of delivery,” says Scott.

The new location is looking to add evening and weekend classes in the near future.

It’s the 35th academy opened nationwide by the Simon Youth Foundation, created by Simon Properties which owns Sugarloaf Mills. It’s the first in Georgia. 

Foundation President and CEO Michael Durnil says the first one opened 20 years to help stem the dropout rate.

“They would say to these kids, ‘why are you in the mall’. And students would say, ‘well, because we don’t really feel like we fit in anywhere else’. Well, we can turn that on its head and we create a space in partnership with public schools where kids feel like they really do fit,” he says.

Durnil says 35 percent of students who attend nationwide are usually the first in their family to earn a high school diploma. 

The foundation also offers over $1 million in scholarships, which can be used to pursue college, career training, and other continuing education opportunities.

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