NCSS hopes for $3.1M grant for career academy

COVINGTON - To the Newton County School System, the Labor Day holiday signifies the end of a lot of hard work - as well as hopefully the beginning of even harder work to come.

On Tuesday, NCSS will submit its Career Academy Grant Application to the Technical College System of Georgia. The grant could provide up to $3.1 million in state grant funds for the proposed Newton College and Career Academy.

"We are pleased to make this application for state grant funds on behalf of the students of the Newton County Schools and in partnership with our educational, governmental and economic development agencies," said NCSS Superintendent Steve Whatley in a press release. "The Academy will offer hands-on experiences in the career, technical and agricultural areas which can better prepare our students for the world of work, and at the same time, serve as an economic development tool for our county."

The system hopes to start up the academy by August 2011 to serve up to 350 students in grades 10 through 12; it will add ninth-grade students in year two of the school. By year five, the school plans to serve up to 800 students in grades nine through 12 with greater enrollment numbers of upper classmen.

NCSS officials have said that the school will encourage dual and joint enrollment and plans to offer courses that might not be filled at an individual school but could be popular at a central county location.

Whatley has stressed that the community must come together to support a program such as this in order for it to be a successful one. The school would be a nonprofit corporation.

After being backed by the Newton County Board of Education in July, now the school system has gained support from several county entities and organizations.

Recently, Whatley met with representatives from DeKalb Technical College, the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Covington, the Newton County Board of Commissioners, the Newton County Industrial Development Authority and The Center Facilitating Community Preservation and Planning to review and sign a memorandum of understanding outlining their commitment to work together to achieve the mission of the proposed Newton College and Career Academy - "To enhance academic achievement and provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in post-secondary education and the work force," according to the press release.

"It is an exciting endeavor to see the community commitment involved in this endeavor," said James Woodard, director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education at NCSS, in the press release. "More than 50 commitment letters have been received supporting this application. The Newton College and Career Academy has the potential to create the pipeline of our next generation work force."

If plans for the career academy move along as planned, the system will choose a location - either an existing facility or a new facility if one is not available - by January, and the Career Academy Steering Committee will move forward with planning for the new school.