Academy could come in five years
NCSS grant writer presents timeline to school board

Covington - If the Newton County School System wants to have a college and career academy, it could take five years or longer before its students have the option to attend one.

"It usually takes four to five years to fully implement a career academy or anything of that magnitude," NCSS grant writer Kathy Garber said May 20 in her second presentation to the Newton County Board of Education regarding her three-month long research on career academies.

If the school system decides it would like to have a career academy, like neighboring Rockdale and Walton counties and others around Georgia and the United States, Garber said a facility could be in use after the spring of 2013 if the system starts to study and plan for it now.

She presented a timeline to the board that begins immediately with the system beginning to form partnerships with colleges, local businesses and industry, a first step in the long process of creating a career academy. Up until the fall of 2008, the system could create a task force and subcommittees to study options and make recommendations to the superintendent along the way.

From the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2010, NCSS would work with the high schools to discuss alternative scheduling options, as all will likely need to be on the same schedule - currently Eastside High School operates on a block schedule with four classes a day that finish in one semester and Newton and Alcovy high schools offer six classes a day that last all school year.

"One option is a modified block schedule," school board member Cathy Dobbs said.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for instruction at NCSS, said other scheduling options also exist and that the school system will work with the staff and students to determine the best one if the system decides to go forward with the plans.

Beginning in the spring of 2010 and continuing until the fall of 2011, Garber said the school system would have to work with an architect to develop plans for facilities, develop a construction budget and other related costs and apply for capital equipment funds and other grants if it wants a career academy open during the 2013-14 school year.

"Anytime we see a grant to help us pay for it, we need to hop to it," Garber said.

Potential funding for the multi-million dollar facility includes SPLOST and state capital outlay money, capital equipment grants and state and federal annual funding through the Carl Perkins Act, she said.

From the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2013, Garber said the school system would need to construct facilities and continue applying for grants, as well as develop a curriculum, hold informational meetings for all stakeholders and start recruiting students and staff. Options for locations include an existing school building or having a career academy in lieu of a potential fourth high school.

The school system has yet to make any formal announcement that a career academy is imminent, but many system employees and school board members seemed to favor the idea and hope to follow Garber's timeline.

"We need to do the things necessary for this to become a reality, instead of just talking about it," said the board's Vice Chairman Almond Turner, adding that he knows many current Newton County families are interested in such facilities here.

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