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Architects present drawings for NHS replacement

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- Newton County Board of Education members got their first look at what a replacement school for Newton High School could look like.

During its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, school architects from Cunningham Forehand Matthews & Moore Architects Inc. presented the school board with artist renderings of a proposed new school.

Earlier this year, officials with the Newton County School System decided to phase out of state funding Newton High School, along with Ficquett and Palmer Stone elementary schools. Officials haven't decided yet if or when the NHS building will close, but according to the system's five-year facilities plan, it is anticipated that another high school will be built to replace it.

Architects have spent the past several months designing a building and speaking with school representatives from Alcovy, Newton and Eastside high schools and NCSS administrators to determine the best and worst features of their current buildings.

"It was a very, very collaborative process," said Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for operations at NCSS, adding that about 60 percent of the ideas from the meetings were used in the drawings.

The proposed building would accommodate 2,500 students -- it would be built all at one time instead of in two separate phases, as was done with Alcovy High School. Carpenter said that NCSS eventually will be made up of three 2,500-student high schools that should carry the county for the foreseeable future.

Robert Cunningham of the architect firm said the meetings with school system staff members indicated a desire for some arrangement like Alcovy High School with some enhancements.

The proposed building would be a two-story structure. Once someone walks through a plaza and a covered walkway to enter the building, they will come into a large commons area, slightly wider than the one at Alcovy High.

To the left of the commons area would be a large media center and a two-story wing composed of several academic classrooms for ninth-graders, special education students, computer labs and other classes on the bottom level and mostly science labs on the top level.

To the right of the commons area would be a large auditorium, administrative offices and the cafeteria; behind them would be vocational labs, classrooms and ROTC facilities. An auxiliary gym and standard gym, which has a sunken floor and retractable seating like that at Alcovy High, would be on the edge of the building with adjacent athletic fields. Plans also call for a girls locker room on one side of the gym and a boys locker room on the other side.

In the back of the school would be a plaza and extra dining space.

Parent drop-off and pick-up areas would be in the front of the school, and the bus lane would be situated on the left side of the school; it is possible a bus lane for special education students would be located in the back of the school.

The building could be constructed out of precast concrete, which has insulation built into it, architect Ray Moore said. Alcovy High was built with steel.

Carpenter said the funding would come from state capital outlay money, which is estimated to be provided at a 100 percent funding level at this time. Any local funding would come from a special purpose local option sales tax that can only be used for previously approved building projects; additionally, the money cannot be moved to any other account to pay for the operations of schools, according to NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews.

Currently, NCSS doesn't have a site for the replacement school, and there is no set date to announce a location, according to Carpenter.

Last year, NCSS purchased 80.97 acres of land on Airport Road for $1.1 million, or $14,000 per acre, where a new elementary school is being constructed. That school will open next school year. Earlier this year, the school board discussed with the architects the possibility of putting other NCSS facilities on part of that land -- they have discussed the options of putting a new high school, middle school, sports fields or stadium on the land, but the BOE has yet to act on those options.

Contractors will be expected to begin construction no later than April 2011, Carpenter said, but the project hasn't been put out for bid.

The replacement high school for Newton High is scheduled to open in fall 2013, according to the NCSS five-year facility plan.

NCSS also identified a tentative date for opening a replacement for Eastside High School for the fall of 2017; NCSS has discussed putting grades kindergarten through eighth grades in the current facility to house its parent involvement theme school, which currently serves kindergarten through fifth grades and is planned for gradual expansion over the coming years.