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Board approves theme school plan

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education has approved a plan for the parent-involvement theme school that changes only a few things for next school year.

"We'd like to continue on the path of excellence that was already set by the theme school," said Linda Hayden, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction at NCSS.

During its monthly meeting last week, the school board unanimously approved a recommendation from NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews to adopt a plan that would allow the theme school to expand by including a sixth-grade class next year.

The school also will be moved from its current location, Fairview Elementary School on Fairview Road, to the current Ficquett Elementary School building on Newton Drive in Covington. Fairview will be reverted into a traditional elementary school next school year, and most of Ficquett's current population is expected to transfer to the new elementary school being built on Airport Road in north Newton County when it opens in August.

As a result, the theme school will be named the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett, according to the plan.

About 600 students are enrolled in the theme school in kindergarten through fifth grades -- 87 in kindergarten, 136 in first grade, 103 in second grade, 95 in third grade, 90 in fourth grade and 54 in fifth grade.

NCSS is proposing that 835 kids be enrolled at the theme school next year, averaging between 100 and 150 students per grade level -- 100 students each in kindergarten and first grades, 150 in second grade, 125 in third grade and 120 each in fourth through sixth grades.

There is no cap on the number of students from each elementary school in the county, and there will be a lottery for each grade level that might go over capped enrollment numbers at the theme school, officials said.

Existing theme school students will have the first choice of enrollment for next school year as long as they have met qualifications. Siblings of enrolled students will be given first choice for kindergarten classes.

To remain at the school, students in grades one through six must meet standards by earning a 2 or 3, an 80 or an S or P in all areas. Additionally, students must not have poor discipline or attendance records.

Students also must not earn more than 3 Ns on the conduct portion of the report card to remain at the school, which is a new requirement for the 2011-12 school year.

Parents of current theme school students must sign continuation agreements and return them to their teachers by Feb. 28.

New students also must meet the same requirements at their current schools. They also must have passed the reading, English language arts and math portions of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Exams.

New families are asked to apply to the theme school from Feb. 1 through 28. Applications, which are available at www.newtoncountyschools.org and at the school, must include a proof of Newton County residence and students' report cards and CRCT scores.

Theme school parents agree to volunteer or participate at a minimum of 20 hours per year and provide transportation for students by bringing them to the school or at one of four drop-off points in the county.

Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be mailed to families by March 18 after a lottery tentatively set for March 11.