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School board approves NCSS organization

COVINGTON -- Some facilities in the Newton County School System will be used differently over the next decade.

The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved during its work session Tuesday night a proposed organization of NCSS that will be submitted to the Georgia Department of Education for the system's new Five-Year Facilities Plan.

In addition to the state funding phaseouts of Newton High, Palmer Stone Elementary and Ficquett Elementary schools that the school board approved in February, the plan also calls for the current Eastside High School to become a theme school for kindergarten through eighth grades, resulting in the current Clements and Fairview theme schools reverting back to a middle and elementary school, respectively. EHS was opened in 1994 as a transitional school based on middle school layout and size; it has received classroom additions since then.

The plan also calls for two new high schools and a new elementary school to be built as replacements.

These proposed changes come after NCSS architects worked with the Georgia Department of Education's facilities consultant to develop cost estimates needed to substantiate facility needs in the school system.

NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said the updated plan, which covers July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2011, was a result of the decrease in the rate of student enrollment growth and decreases in ad valorem tax collections, sales tax collections and state funding since the adoption of the current plan. The phaseout of the three schools from the Georgia DOE's inventory generates a greater need for classroom space and therefore increases state earnings; Sharp Learning Center already is an NCSS facility that was phased out of state inventory in the past.

Although the plan extends until June 30, 2011, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said it does not mean that new high schools and changes to other schools will occur by then.

"It will be spread over a course of years as new facilities or additions are constructed," he said in a press release Wednesday.

Carpenter said the replacement high school for Newton High School is scheduled to open in fall 2013, and a tentative date for opening a replacement for Eastside High School is fall 2017, which also could be the transition date of the theme schools to the EHS facility.

"No final decisions have been made in regards to the location for either (new high school)," Carpenter said.

According to the press release, the changes would provide for about $24 million in additional in state participation.

NCSS plans to submit its new five-year facilities plan to the state Department of Education for review by Monday, and the school board is expected to adopt the plan in May, after a committee made up of administrators from school districts around the state reviews it. In June, the new plan is expected to be completed and adopted by the Georgia DOE.