For some Forsyth County families, hybrid schools offer the best of both worlds

Kimberly Bond

(Forsyth County, GA) On a sunny day that feels more like summer than early May, Dr. Melissa Shipman is smiling outside the building that will soon become the new home of Learnwell, a hybrid school serving the Forsyth County area. The school, which began in 2017, started as a way to support homeschooling families virtually with teaching tips and curriculum ideas. But in 2021, Dr. Shipman and her family took a leap of faith and opened a physical location at the Bluegrass Village office park.

At Learnwell, students attend the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For the at-home days, their teachers provide personalized lesson plans, videos, and other support for parents. The school organizes regular field trips and student-led club periods, plus fun community-building events such as a science fair, arts showcase, and field day.

During the 2021-22 school year, Learnwell offered grades K-7. As the students move up, each year the school will add another grade. For the 2022-23 school year, Learnwell expects its enrollment to double. To accommodate the increase in enrollment, Learnwell is moving down the street to a former Carrington Academy just past Halcyon - a larger location that will better suit the growing school.

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Dr. Melissa Shipman addresses excited Learnwell students at the new building's ribbon-cutting ceremony.(Photo/Kimberly Bond)

Interest in hybrid schooling has been growing nationwide, especially during the past few years. During the pandemic, when many families were forced to try a version of homeschooling for the first time, some parents were surprised to discover how well it worked for them and their children. Other families were already committed to homeschooling but wanted social opportunities for their children or the confidence of knowing an experienced teacher was available to help with any subject-matter snags.

“Hybrid education offers the best of two worlds: going to school together and learning at home,” says Dr. Shipman. “We know there are so many benefits to learning alongside peers under the guidance of an experienced teacher and to learning at home with a parent's guidance.”

While discussing the school’s future, Dr. Shipman’s passion for the project is clear. “Learnwell offers a unique educational model to families in north Georgia. Intentional margin for families, deep faith, educational excellence, and authentic community are the values that drive Learnwell's offering for students and their families,” she shares. “I’m excited about building our Learnwell high school programs in the years to come!”

Other hybrid programs in Forsyth County

Forsyth County is home to several other hybrid programs, some of which have been around for years. Many of these programs are faith-based. Some have their own buildings, while others meet in churches. Though all of them are committed to the hybrid model, there are several different educational styles represented.

Fideles Christian School

Fideles Christian School, which serves kids from pre-K through high school, was one of the first in the area, starting back in 2004. At Fideles, a regionally-accredited, college-preparatory school, pre-K through 4th-grade students meet two days a week. Older students meet three days a week.

Silas Ford, the Chaplain and Director of Operations at Fideles, has seen “exploding interest” in the hybrid school over the past few years. “We have 375 kids at Fideles this year and will have 425 this fall,” he shares. Even though Forsyth County has highly-ranked public schools, Ford says they have 140 new applicants, and many are public school students interested in transferring.

Ford explained that the hybrid model allows Fideles to offer parents the benefits of a private school in an affordable way. He also shared that they have great educator retention because teachers can still do what they love part-time while also spending more time with their families.

This year, all 21 seniors at Fideles will be attending 4-year schools after graduation. As the school grows, they have started construction on a new high school building. “Parents are seeing that things can be done differently,” declares Ford.

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Fideles students celebrated the work of Dr. Seuss in class this year.(Photo/Fideles Christian School)

Veritas Classical Schools

Parents interested in a classical model of education have an option in Veritas Classical Schools. Dave Kinsey, the previous headmaster at Fellowship Christian School in Roswell, founded Veritas with his wife Bev back in 1995. Today, the school has multiple campuses in Georgia and Tennessee, including one in Alpharetta, which meets at Tapestry Community Church, and one in Cumming, which meets at Greater Heights Baptist Church. Veritas serves students in grades K-12. All students take humanities classes through Veritas, but parents can also add math or science. There are additional electives for high school students.

“As a classical, Christian model of education, Veritas Classical Schools endeavors to equip students to become thinkers who can analyze and critique ideas from a distinctive biblical perspective,” shares Bev Kinsey. “Our mission is to assist homeschooling parents by partnering with them to communicate the truth, train the mind, and cultivate the heart in a Christ-honoring atmosphere. As a college prep program, we do not just educate students to go to college but also equip students for life beyond college.”

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Veritas students proudly display their projects on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic.(Photo/Veritas Classical Schools)

St. John Bosco Academy

St. John Bosco Academy was started by a group of local Catholic parents. Their goals, according to their mission statement, were “forming their children humanly and spiritually and providing a solid education.” Like many parents interested in homeschooling and hybrid models, one major factor was having more family time.

St. John Bosco Academy now serves children in grades K-12. Students in lower grades study mathematics, language arts, religion, history, and science. High school students will tackle upper-level math, science, history, literature, composition and rhetoric, theology, Latin, and performing arts, plus a “deep study” of the Catholic faith.

Like other hybrid schools in the area, St. John Bosco Academy has been growing. The school has outgrown its current rented space and is raising funds to purchase a new building.

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The current home of St. John Bosco Academy.(Photo/St. John Bosco Academy)

Forsyth County families are fortunate to have many educational options. Whether it’s a traditional public school, homeschool, or hybrid school, parents can choose what works best for their children at different stages of their lives.

Do you love your Forsyth County school? Let us know below in the comments or send an email to kbondwriter@gmail.com.

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I'm a writer, editor, and journalist with a background in law and science. I love writing about interesting local places and events in Forsyth County, especially new businesses or family-friendly experiences.

Cumming, GA
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