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School bid gets BOE approval

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved a construction bid for a new elementary school at its work session Tuesday night.

The board members awarded the bid to Meja Construction Inc., a company out of Jackson that has built several schools in Georgia, but never in Newton County, over the last 20 years.

"They did bid on (Liberty Middle School), so we checked them out at that time; they had good references," said Ray Moore, vice president of Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews & Moore Architects Inc., the company designing the school. "I'm comfortable with them."

The new school will be Newton County School System's 14th elementary school. It will be located on the northeast corner of the intersection at Kirkland Road and Jack Neely Road in the western part of Newton County.

It will be similar in design to South Salem Elementary School, which is a two-level school with core facilities - the cafeteria and media center - built for 1,500.

The Kirkland Road site also is planned for extra school bus parking, but no further details regarding it were available from the school system as of press time.

"New elementary school No. 14 is included in the Newton County Five-Year Facilities Plan that carries the school system through 2013. This plan was approved by both the State Board of Education and the Newton County Board of Education in February 2007," according to Superintendent Steve Whatley's recommendation to the board. "Also included in the plan are the construction of elementary schools No. 15 and No. 16, middle school No. 6 and high school No. 4, as well as other facility renovations, construction and improvements."

Meja Construction Inc. was the low bidder for the elementary school out of four bids with a base bid of $13,319,000.

"This is within budget," said Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration for the Newton County School System.

"In July 2007, the board approved the State Capital Outlay Application for state regular entitlement funds of $3,468,652 and exceptional growth funds of $3,599,063, for a total cost of $7,067,715 that is designated towards construction costs for new elementary school No. 14," Whatley's recommendation reads. "The state does not participate in purchasing land or in equipping new schools; those funds are all local dollars."

In November, the school system closed the purchase of 23.85 acres of land for the school for $1,073,250 from SPLOST funds.

Other funding sources include SPLOST III, general obligation bonds and other local funding.

Robertson said the last elementary school built, South Salem Elementary School, which is being finished on Salem Road and will open for the 2008-09 school year, was higher than this bid because it also included site work for the adjacent middle school.

Carroll Daniel Construction Company, which is building South Salem Elementary School and the adjacent Liberty Middle School, did not bid on the project. Moore said the company is working on a large building in Gwinnett and doesn't want to be stretched too thin.

As of press time, the school system could not say when construction on the new elementary school would start. It is scheduled to open for the 2009-10 school year, and the board will vote on a name and administrators closer to the opening date.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.