The Barrow County School System recorded its highest-ever graduation rate in 2021 — 91% — since statewide measuring of rates began in 2000, the school district announced Oct. 21.

Barrow’s rate, which jumped from 85.1% in 2020, outpaced the statewide rate of 83.7%, according to figures from the Georgia Department of Education. State officials attributed the slight statewide decline from 83.8% to learning and accessibility challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Graduation rates in Georgia are measured by the “cohort method,” which tracks the percentage of students at a school who graduate within four years of entering high school. It was the third time in the last four years Barrow’s rate has increased — the exception being 2020, when the district dropped from 87.7 to 85.1%. Apalachee High School’s 2021 graduation rate was 92.1%, while Winder-Barrow High School was at 89.9%.

“I am very proud of all our teachers, staff members, students and parents for the dedication and hard work that goes into supporting our students in crossing the finish line of high school graduation,” Barrow County superintendent Chris McMichael said in a district news release that noted the district’s graduation rate has increased from 72.1% in 2013. “This is an amazing accomplishment. We set this as a goal in our strategic plan, and we are excited to have reached this milestone.”

The statewide graduation rate has now increased 14 points since 2002, according to a DOE news release. Barrow County was one of 102 school districts in the state and Apalachee was one of 223 high schools to record graduation rates at or above 90% in 2021. Thirty-seven districts and 98 schools hit or topped 95%.

Apalachee saw a 6.3% jump in its rate from 2020, while Winder-Barrow’s rate increased 5.5%.

“Our students, teachers, parents, and community have truly rallied behind their children to set them up for post-secondary success. We could not be prouder of the hard work, effort, and dedication displayed, resulting in the highest graduation rate in the history of Apalachee High School,” AHS principal Jennifer Martin said. “The collective effort from our feeder elementary and middle schools builds a solid foundation for our students, working collaboratively with each school, and focusing on our daily opportunities to place students on the right path for success should be celebrated.”

“This was a giant effort of all teachers and staff to reach individual students, even many who were home and had unique needs during the pandemic,” added WBHS principal Derrick Maxwell. “We plan to continue and increase our efforts and look forward to seeing our Class of 2022 cross the 50-yard line.”

Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy, the district’s third high school, which opened in August 2020 as a grade 8-10 school and now has 11th-graders, will have its first graduating class in 2023.

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