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Old 03-14-2009, 05:11 PM
Location: New York City
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From my research and from visiting the area, Athens is by far the more appealing place. It's incredibly charming and the university is magnificent. The restaurants and walkable downtown are a huge plus. However, the public schools are not that great. Oconee on the other hand has supposedly great schools, but lacks charm. It's mostly just residential. If you have the money, live in Athens (preferably the west side) and send your children to Athens Academy, a private school that sends kids to great colleges and has an amazing campus.
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Old 05-10-2011, 03:18 PM
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Actually, I would disagree slightly about schools. Clarke Central High School has the most elite students in the area - based on national merit scholarships, etc. Oconee is very white with plenty of average kids and involved parents, but less of the off-the-charts bright and less of those at the bottom. Clarke has a lot of super bright, average and those at the bottom. If you are comforted by a more homogenous pool, then Oconee is where you need to be. If you like living in town, are ok with more diversity in the classroom, then Clarke offers some nice options particularly at the primary and high school stages (middle school is an area of concern, but most pediatricians will tell you that middle school is tough everywhere). A lot depends on your child. Athens Academy is fine, but I've known parents who've pulled their ultra bright kids out of Athens Academy and sent them to Clarke Central High School- and they went to Ivy League schools. There are, of course, other private options - St. Joe's and Prince Avenue Christian. In short, I would encourage you to really look at the data, talk to principals, and make up your own mind.
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Old 11-08-2012, 02:14 PM
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I grew up in Kingswood (west side of Athens), and Athens is a great place to be. To a degree, Oconee County and Athens blur together if you're not a student because of proximity. The town is small enough that you end up mixing with people from both areas if you're involved in the community. My Oconee friends came into Athens regularly because Athens has a great deal of charm and energy, while Oconee county has none--unless you're into farm land and mega churches. If you're looking within Clarke County, I'd recommend the Five Points as far as charm and liveliness.

As far as schools, I would also have to disagree with the majority opinion that 'Oconee County schools are the best!!' Clarke County isn't known for having the best public schools as a whole, but I would categorize Oconee Schools as altogether bland and uninspiring. My friends who went to Oconee were certainly smart and conscientious students, but it didn't seem all that rigorous. They certainly weren't creating projects like 'Darius Goes West,' or becoming a finalist in the Siemens science competition. Oconee High school grooms its students for Georgia State and co., with the highest achieving reaching for UGA. They will be safe, fairly well educated, and a bit boring. By contrast, Clarke County has a lot of drop outs/teen pregnancies/much poorer population, but it also has a much better record of producing truly brilliant students at the top of the class. The students I knew at Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals were much more interesting, well educated leaders. That said, they also saw guns at school regularly, and I got the sense their excitement for life & education had a lot to do with overwhelmingly having parents involved with the University. I think Clarke Central was considered the better school overall, but Cedar Schoals is known for having a killer Math and Physics program. I'm also pretty sure Clarke County schools have far more APs than Oconee County High School.

Personally, I went to Athens Academy 2nd-12. I certainly didn't encounter the same type of diversity I would have at Clarke Central (and suffered for it, in my opinion), but it was a hell of a lot more diverse than Oconee. I'd also enthusiastically say it had the most rigorous academics in the area, and pretty much everyone was expected to be involved in extracurriculars in some way. It was far more competitive than other schools in the area, but the atmosphere in the top classes was also more collaborative that you would have in a traditional school. It helps that top classes meet for an extra hour once a week, that teachers are required to be on hand for Office hours from 3:10-4, and that sports practices can't meet during that time. I was also in all of those classes with the same people, so we all had to support each other. I still make an effort to visit campus regularly to catch up with old teachers and go out to lunch to chat because of how much I admire and respect them. Oh, and everyone from a certain age up has a laptop, so it definitely gives you a jump start familiarity with all the programs you'll use in college.

There are upsides and downsides to Athens Academy. For instance, I was able to take enough APs to cut off a full year and a half of college, all while acting in plays, starting up my own club, editing the literary journal, and playing several sports. Can't pretend I slept a lot, but the freedom and competitiveness Athens Academy provided made college easy. My AP Calculus BC class was WAY more difficult than anything I took in college my first two years. On the downside, the rumors are true--lots of snotty, wealthy white kids! Cocaine is definitely an issue, and the money you'll see parked in the parking lot is breathtaking. One classmate's parents built him his own mini-house in the backyard so he could throw parties in peace--no joke. It's also very cliquish, so you'd want to make sure your child has a very strong sense of who he or she is and a lot of self-confidence. You won't make it out of that place without some emotional scars, even if you do end up at an elite college on a great career path.

Sorry for the long digression! Bottom line: Live in Athens, and brave the public schools (knowing you're going to have to self-motivate your kid) or put them in Athens Academy where they will get a spectacular education and a cut-throat social atmosphere.
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Old 11-08-2012, 05:25 PM
Location: Savannah GA
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This is an old thread, but it raises a valid point: Why ARE Athens-Clarke County schools held in such low regard? Is it a valid statement or just a white upper-middle class myth? When I went to school at UGA 25 years ago, Athens schools were at least as good as suburban Atlanta schools. Clarke Central High School was one of the best in the state. I am aware that there has been some white flight out of Clarke County since then, and Athens has always had a sizable low-income / public housing community, but neither of these are reasons why the entire school system should implode in one generation.

Besides, the UGA College of Education uses Athens schools as a laboratory. Education majors do internships and in-service programs with the Athens-Clarke schools. There is both a strong academic community AND large pool of resources in the community. It simply DOES NOT MAKE SENSE that Athens schools should be as bad as some on here make them out to be, and my gut instinct tells me that is true.
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Old 11-08-2012, 09:29 PM
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High School dropout rate hovers in the vicinity of 50% plus/minus. At least that is the last word I heard. Poverty is a big, big problem here. Some 30% of our population meets poverty cutoff. Again, those were the last figures I saw. How reliable this is I don't know. Of course the problems begin at the lowest levels of education and in families where education is not a serious matter, where there is little encouragement in the home etc. Sad stuff. You would think that at the home of the University of Georgia that the local schools would be tops. Just ain't so. Oconee County and to some extent Jackson County far exceed Clarke County public schools. Since I have no dog in the fight, my advice to anyone interested in settling in Athens area is that they do some serious research for themselves.
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