NORTH FULTON, Ga. - Steel girders are going up and concrete is being poured as Innovation Academy high school takes structural shape in downtown Alpharetta where old Milton High School once stood. 

As they eye the August 2020 opening for the STEM-based school, Fulton School System officials now shift their attention to elements inside the building, primarily marketing the unique approach for learning to prospective students. 

“[Innovation Academy] is for the student who seeks a different high school experience to develop tangible skills to take into the workplace,” said Doannie Tran, PhD., assistant superintendent for Innovative Programs. “The school offers a creative, collaborative setting to solve problems in an authentic setting so students are fully prepared for the workforce of the future.

The STEM-concept school is a departure from the traditional high school setting and will likely appeal to the student who seeks a deeper dive into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, Tran noted.

The curriculum aligns with “design thinking,” a problem-solving process where students define the problem, generate alternatives, choose a solution, implement the solution, and learn from the process. Tran said an integrated curriculum means concepts will be addressed across all courses.

The school is organized around three learning paths — healthcare sciences, information technology, and engineering — which are among the fastest growing industries across the globe.

The district is creating partnerships with area businesses and corporations to support Innovation Academy through resources, information, internships, professional development and other avenues, noted Cliff Jones, chief academic officer for Fulton Schools.

“Our expectation is these partners will help support authentic learning experiences through real life case studies and projects that immerse the student in the [subject],” Jones said.

Innovation Academy will meet all district and state requirements for graduation but will not offer GHSA athletics programs, or the extensive menu of extracurricular activities found at traditional high schools. 

Beginning this month, Fulton School staff will host a series of community meetings at high schools across North Fulton to introduce prospective parents and students to Innovation Academy. The events are slated for May 15 and 16.

“These meetings are where parents and students who are interested in the school can get a first look,” Jones said. “This is the first step in the process of understanding what Innovation Academy offers, our direction, where it is heading, and if this is the right school for you.”

On the agenda will be topics programs and curriculum, along with information about a “day/week in the life of a typical student.”

“We want to make sure parents and students make informed choices ahead of time, and [recognize] their commitment to something different and unique,” Jones said.

The school will open with a charter class of 450 freshman who will comprise the first graduating class in 2024. 

A new class of freshman will enroll each year until the school reaches its target enrollment of 1,800 students in 2023.

The application process opens in October, and a lottery will be held if applications exceed the number of seats available. 

The school is open to enrollment for students from across North Fulton; a second STEM high school will open in South Fulton in 2021.

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