Imagine to present plans for Newton charter school

COVINGTON - Newton County could be home to a charter school in 2010 if it's approved by the Newton County Board of Education.

To that end, Imagine Charter Schools, a nonprofit charter school organization, will hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Center, located at 2104 Washington St. in Covington.

"We will be introducing what a charter school is, how it is run and operated ... and how Imagine fits in," said Kelly Campbell, new school

developer for the Georgia region of Imagine Schools.

She said Imagine plans to have meetings in the county every couple of months so more people can hear their plans.

Imagine submitted a letter of intent with the Newton County School System in August for three charter petitions for an international elementary school and a middle and high school to open in August 2009. However, on Wednesday, Imagine withdrew its letter of intent.

"It's very important ... that we have a strong partnership with the school district and community, and we haven't had time to develop that," Campbell said. "We didn't feel like we (had) proved ourselves yet."

She said starting with Tuesday's meeting, Imagine plans to begin meeting with the community and school system on a regular basis.

"We are planning to resubmit (the letter of intent) next February for a 2010 start," she said.

After Imagine submits a letter of intent, it will present a charter petition to the school board for approval.

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at the NCSS, said a charter school was denied several years ago.

"It didn't meet the criteria," she said.

Robertson said a charter school has to meet state and local criteria, outlined by state and school system policies.

According to NCSS Policy IEC, a charter petition must be submitted by Sept. 1 to be considered for the following fiscal year. The school board will have 60 calendar days to approve or deny the request.

The petition also must meet 13 requirements, including having a school mission, describing financial policies and specifying the duration of the charter and attendance zone.

Campbell said Imagine hopes to locate the school near Georgia Perimeter College in the new Mt. Pleasant mixed-use development.

She said it would be tuition free and open to any student, including special needs and English as a Second Language children, eligible to attend school in Newton County.

Early plans indicate it could serve up to 300 kindergarten through fifth-grade students in its first year. Each subsequent year, a grade would be added up to eighth grade.

Campbell also said Imagine is interested in having a charter high school that could jointly enroll students at Georgia Perimeter College. Imagine representatives have had initial discussions with GPC administration concerning those plans, she said.

Imagine would provide for food services, transportation, maintenance and operations, building costs and other central office departments; NCSS would not be responsible for such costs, she said.

"The funding they are responsible for would be FTE money, which is already money that follows the child," she said.

This is the first time Imagine has proposed a charter school in Newton County. It owns and operates five in Georgia and hundreds nationwide, Campbell said.

She encouraged every community member to attend an Imagine meeting, either Tuesday or in the future.

"Anybody should come, even if you don't have school-aged children, because this affects the community; it impacts business owners and everyone," she said. "We're really looking forward to sharing this."

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

SideBar: If You Go

What: Imagine Charter Schools meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: The Center, 2104 Washington St., Covington

More Information: www.imaginegeorgia.com