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College, career academy moves forward

Staff Photos: Erin Evans. Newton County Board of Education members helped break ground for the Newton College and Career Academy behind Newton High School on Tuesday afternoon. Pictured, from left, are school board members Johnny Smith, C.C. Bates and Eddie Johnson; Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley; board members Almond Turner and Cathy Dobbs; and NCSS architect Ray Moore. They also broke ground on a new elementary school on Airport Road near Ga. Highway 142.

Staff Photos: Erin Evans. Newton County Board of Education members helped break ground for the Newton College and Career Academy behind Newton High School on Tuesday afternoon. Pictured, from left, are school board members Johnny Smith, C.C. Bates and Eddie Johnson; Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley; board members Almond Turner and Cathy Dobbs; and NCSS architect Ray Moore. They also broke ground on a new elementary school on Airport Road near Ga. Highway 142.

COVINGTON -- Although the site work for the Newton College and Career Academy was just approved by the Newton County Board of Education earlier this month, the idea already is becoming more of a reality.

This week, school board members and officials from the Newton County School System helped break ground on land behind Newton High School upon which the academy will be built.

Plans already have been developed for the 159,000-square-foot addition over a current parking lot near the private drive that leads to the school's agriculture greenhouses and barn behind the school and its auditorium.

The building is expected to have three levels -- a main level, an upper level and a lower level -- and is separate from the current NHS building.

The main level could include such areas as an administration area and media center; an area that includes a career center, a work based learning space and a small business start-up space; a cosmetology room; an early childhood center and outside play yard; a marketing area with a school store; a public safety area for emergency, fire and law enforcement classes; a broadcast video and graphic arts center; and a kitchen area with classrooms and a dining space.

The level also would house a 250-seat auditorium, which is to be built more like a lecture hall, similar to the one housed at the Rockdale Career Academy with tables and computer station hookups that the school often leases to area companies, businesses and community organizations.

The upper level includes several classrooms for health care, physical education, engineering and manufacturing, sciences, computer and media courses, as well as a naturally lit open atrium in view of the dining and auditorium spaces alongside the upper atrium concourse.

The lower level, which is in line with the present barn and green houses, could house horticulture, veterinary science, construction and transportation areas; it is designed to be used for after-hour work.

Charles Sullivan Construction of Homer will complete the site work and grading for $364,000, as approved by the school board.

NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said Tuesday that the school will be developed using the $3 million in state grant funds awarded to NCSS and DeKalb Technical College as part of the Georgia Career Academy Project, an initiative spearheaded by Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle in 2007.

Whatley also said NCSS will use $12 million in bonds through the Qualified School Construction Bonds with a zero percent interest rate.

"We are pleased that these financing opportunities came together to offer this to our students in Newton County," Whatley said.

During its regular session meeting Tuesday, school board members unanimously approved a board of directors for the academy, as recommended by NCSS and school board officials and DeKalb Technical College. They are Danny Stone, manager of economic development at Snapping Shoals; Jerry Silvio, founder of Silvio Development Company; Kyle Anderson, president of Nanston Inc., a dental practice management company; Michelle Bryant Johnson, director of Marketing and Development with the Arts Association of Newton County; Greg Richardson, director of Human Resources at Newton Medical Center; Carol Jones, human resources manager at SKC; and John Kelly, area manager for Georgia Power.

They will serve on rotating two- and three-year terms, governing the organization under the direction and guidance of the school board. They are expected to assume responsibility of NCCA on July 1.