Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd. Science teacher Derek Kreider and his new high school students have enjoyed the new classrooms at Peachtree Academy. In the science department, students have desks, lab space and cabinetry to conduct classroom experiments.
COVINGTON -- The Conyers-based Peachtree Academy private school proved doubters wrong this week by opening its new Newton County campus on time -- and with only a few pieces of its main building remaining unfinished.
In June, construction crews began multi-million dollar renovations on the vacated 84 Lumber site on U.S. Highway 278 in Covington in eastern Newton County, where the new campus now sits, with Phase 1 of the project nearly complete.
"It is just an amazing tribute ... for students and
families," said JaNice Van Ness, director of admissions at Peachtree Academy. "Every city (of Covington) employee has made this a priority, and we appreciate their support."
Originally, the campus planned to locate on McGuirts Bridge Road, off U.S. Highway 278 in Covington, but the school would have had to spend up to $500,000 to add required traffic lanes and signals, Van Ness said.
Instead, school officials discovered a gem in the rough that eventually will be made up of several buildings.
"All subcontractors took ownership of the job and did whatever it took to make sure the school opened on (time)," said Shane Millwood, president of Covington-based SteelCo, the general contractor of the school construction.
The entire campus will be made up of buildings for both instructional and administrative spaces and a separate area that will house a gym, cafeteria and stage for productions and community events. It also will have an outdoor eating area and stage converted from 84 Lumber's back loading dock and a recreation-football-sized sports field in the back.
As part of Phase I, the main building in the front contains 14 classrooms on two levels, as well as a gym, cafeteria and administrative areas that it will house until the next phases are complete. New playground equipment is expected to be put in place soon.
Like the other Peachtree Academy campuses in Conyers, the school will use Georgia Performance Standards as minimum guidelines. It is the first private school in Covington that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Currently, about 75 students in prekindergarten through ninth grade from Newton, Walton and Butts counties are enrolled at the Newton campus, and registration will remain open until January, as the facility can accommodate 220 students. The school plans to house students through 12th grade next school year because of the high interest in the community, Van Ness said.
The school will keep a low student-teacher ratio with 18 to 20 students per class -- or lower, as it is currently -- to keep down discipline problems and distractions, Van Ness said.
In addition to core classes, the school offers studies in art, music, physical education, Spanish and chapel. It also features athletics like cheerleading, tennis, track, golf, basketball, volleyball and soccer, in addition to various clubs.
The school is equipped with high technology like smart boards, active voters and other gadgets in all of its classrooms. Dell laptops and a computer lab also are available for students.
Before and after school care programs also are available, as well as summer camps and special programs during extended breaks. The school calendar is similar to area public school calendars.
"We are going to be the year-round option for parents," Van Ness said.
Interested families can request more information and a tour of the new school building.
They also have several opportunities over the next couple of weeks to visit the school -- open houses are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, when parents can register their students for school, take tours of the building and get information about the program while enjoying various entertainment.
At 10 a.m. on Aug. 31, the public also is invited to a ribbon cutting, after which they also can take a tour of the new building and get more information about the school.
Information about registration is available by calling Jenna Johnson, director of operations at the school, at 770-860-8900, ext. 10 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as calling Van Ness at ext. 11 or e-mailing email@example.com.
Peachtree Academy also is looking for educators.
Current Conyers campus Principal Sandy Russell and Assistant Principal Allison Gresham will oversee the Covington campus as well.
The Conyers private school is in its eighth year and houses students through ninth grade. The 6-year-old Peachtree Academy West services early learners through kindergarten.
The institution also has a campus in Colorado. Van Ness previously said after the Covington campus is built, she will explore opportunities for campuses elsewhere. Franchising is available, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.