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BOE approves plans to start theme school

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education approved a recommendation that will allow the school system to move forward with plans to start a theme school.

During its October meeting, board members unanimously approved the recommendation from Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley to establish a theme school or schools for the 2009-10 school year.

"At this time, the school(s) would be opened in the fall of 2009 focusing on parent involvement as the theme," Whatley wrote in his recommendation to the board.

After previously discussing the possibilities of a magnet school or charter school, the board unanimously approved the option from Whatley.

The recommendation is a broad one at this point - Whatley said school system officials and theme school committee members are developing specifics that will be brought to the board at a later time; items include grade levels, transportation, student selection, procedures, administration and staff and parent notification, among other details.

"There will be a number of things we want to tweak along the way, so (the school system and committee) will be coming to us a number of times," board Chairman Almond Turner said

Board member C.C. Bates said the school system should stick to its timeline and update the board on a monthly basis. According to the timeline, the school system plans to advertise for a theme school principal in January, accept applications to the school from parents and students in February, select teaching staff in March and April and open the school by August.

Schools may send home surveys to parents to get input for further developments with the theme school.

The theme school committee - made up of community members, parents, teachers, school administrators and district personnel - has met several times over the last five months to discuss possibilities of the theme school.

According to a presentation made to the school board, the committee discussed the possibility of a theme school involving middle school grade levels, focusing on parental involvement with a certain number of volunteer hours required, requiring uniforms and possibly housing it at the new elementary or middle school or an existing school.

Even though a certain school or schools may be selected as a theme school and only certain students may be allowed to enroll in it, Whatley said everyone in the school district should be involved with and aware of the developments.

"We will reshape the district to meet student needs," Whatley said. "As we define this, it has broad reaching implications for all schools, not just ones that become theme schools."

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