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The Magic Johnson Bridgescape Center is set to open in Macon in mid-January.

It'd be the first charter school with a physical presence in Bibb County.

The Bridgescape Center is the alternative program of the Georgia Provost Academy, which is a virtual public charter school. That means students take courses online, and it's free, like a regular public school.

However, Bridgescape students have to come in to the center for 4-hour shifts where experienced teachers can help fill in the gaps.

Jubriel Walker is a Bridgescape student at the Atlanta center, which is currently the only one in the state.

"It's very different from regular high school," he said, "the computer teaches you everything."

At age 20, he says the self-paced learning cuts out distractions, and gives him a second shot at earning a high school diploma.

"You don't have to be with a lot of kids around you," Walker said, "so I think people focus better when they're by themselves."

Executive director Monica Henson says the flexibility of online learning plus the focused attention of qualified teachers works for a broad range of students.

"We go all the way from struggling kids-- they might be in the 12th grade reading on a third grade level-- to those who might be heading to a university and taking advanced placement courses, and everything in between. But what they all have in common is that regular public school isn't working for them," Henson said.

Bridgescape operates outside of the public school system. Along with the Georgia Provost Academy, it's managed by a private company. But Henson says they're not competing with the school district.

"Were not aggressively going out and recruiting kids away from the school district. We're simply saying here we are. This is what we do, and we are aggressively recruiting kids who already have dropped out. Who no longer belong to the school district, that haven't aged out of the system and need a high school diploma," she said.

The center gets state dollars for every student, but not local tax dollars. Public school districts get both. Henson says they get by by cutting out the overhead costs public school districts have to deal with, like cafeterias, transportation, and a large buraucracy of administrators. Instead they provide things like computers, subsidized internet and transportation for students who can't afford it, as well as paraprofessionals and assistants to supplement teachers.

"We have taken the idea of school. We have pulled out the best things about it, and really resourced and maximized those things," said Henson. "That's how we're able to do it with a lot less money."

Henson says the program has taken off in Atlanta, and she's confident it'll be the same in Macon. The goal is to have 100 students enrolled in the first month.

Students interested in attending the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Center can enroll by calling 1-888-725-9501.

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