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LOA upbeat as COVID school year ends

May 28, 2021 - 00:00
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    Lake Oconee Academy CEO Dr. Otho Tucker stands in front of a sign at the high school touting LOA as “one of America’s best high schools in 2021” according to an annual evaluation from U.S. News and World Report magazine. MARK ENGEL/Staff
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    This week’s honors ceremony for third grade students at Lake Oconee Academy. Each grade K-8 had individual ceremonies honoring the student’s achievements with proud parents watching from the bleachers. The LOA high school graduation was held May 22. M
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    Meeting in person and on Zoom Monday night, May 24, the Lake Oconee Academy Board of Governors approved funding for a Fieldhouse to be built at the on campus sports complex. MARK ENGEL/Staff

The Board of Governors of Lake Oconee Academy Monday night approved $797,000 for the construction of a fieldhouse at the sports complex area on the LOA campus. The contract was awarded to Landmark Construction, which, according to LOA CEO Dr. Otho Tucker, also constructed the new Hilton Tru Hotel, the Lake Oconee Church and is currently building the new Boys & Girls Club.

The Fieldhouse is one of three construction projects underway at LOA’s Carey Station Road complex. Also expected to be completed within the next year are a new football/soccer field and a $3.5 million Arts Center building.

The COVID-impacted school year ended this week in Greene County. LOA was the only school in the county to open last August with options for both on campus, face-to-face learning and live online instruction for families concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the Monday meeting, Tucker told the Lake Oconee News that, with ventilation systems and sanitation protocols in place, LOA has shown that the campus can be safe.

Earlier this month, students and staff were given the option to not wear masks, which had been mandatory all year. He said volunteers also returned to campus for the last few weeks. And for the first time since September, no student, staff or faculty members were affected last week by COVID contacts, either on or off campus.

By the time school ended this week, Tucker said, 95-96 percent of K-12 students were on campus. He feels good about what the year-end tests are showing about academic achievement despite the distractions of plexiglass partitions, face coverings, social distancing and online learning.

“The few scores that I’ve seen indicate that what we wanted to get done during the school year, we got done during the school year,” said Tucker. “They all aren’t in, but what I’ve seen, I’m very pleased with where we are.”

For those students who struggled, there will be a special summer school program.

“I don’t know that it’s so much because of COVID. We have seen some students that were significantly behind,” he said, “so we just decided this would be a good time to have some summer classes. We are going to be going four hours a day, four days a week for the first four weeks of summer.”

As of Tuesday, 93 students from all grades were scheduled to participate in the program. Other students will have more of a traditional summer study program to complete.

Tucker said that, when school resumes for students on Aug. 3, things will be back to normal, sort of.

“Right now, our plan is to be 100 percent on campus and 100 percent face to face. I guess, in this day and age, masks will always be optional.”

A sign hanging out front of the high school building touts LOA as “one of America’s best high schools in 2021,” according to an annual evaluation of more than 17,000 high schools nationwide by U.S. News and World Report.

LOA ranked in the top 10 percent both nationally and in Georgia for Overall Performance. In the specific category of College Readiness, LOA ranked 9th statewide and 464th in the country, putting it in the top 2.5 percent in Georgia and the U.S.

Tucker pointed out that this year’s graduating seniors earned over $1 million in scholarships while 80 percent of them were on or made the honor roll in second semester of their senior year.