Specialized space: Crews to start building Newton career academy

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- Soon, construction of the building for the Newton College & Career Academy will be under way.

In June, crews broke ground at the Newton High School campus to complete site work and grading. Now, the next phase of the project can begin.

During the Newton County Board of Education's monthly meeting Tuesday night, the board members unanimously approved MEJA Construction Inc. of Jackson to construct the 181,100-square-foot, three-level building over an old parking lot near Newton High School's auditorium and agricultural area off Ram Drive in Covington.

MEJA, which also constructed Live Oak Elementary School, presented the low bid out of 10 bidders for $13,747,000, which includes a base bid of the school for nearly $13.5 million, as well as more than $250,000 for three of six proposed project alternates: porcelain tile floor coverings, lecture seating and a covered shelter for the early childhood education program.

The school is expected to house areas for business, cosmetology, early childhood education, public safety, graphic arts, broadcasting, engineering and manufacturing, health care, horticulture, construction and other programs, according to plans developed by Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews and Moore Architects Inc.

A 13,800-square-foot area also is expected to be left open on the lower level for future use due to the slope of the land and grading work that was done.

School board member Eddie Johnson said on Tuesday that he had hoped a bus canopy also would have been installed at the school; he previously did not notice that was not part of the plans.

"It's disappointing that we have a new building going in ... and I think we ought to have an area where kids can get into school without getting drenched in inclement weather," he said.

NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said he will get some estimates for the board to look at later.

The site work was completed by Charles Sullivan Construction out of Homer for $364,000.

The school is being developed using the $3 million in state grant funds awarded to the Newton County School System and DeKalb Technical College as part of the Georgia Career Academy Project, an initiative spearheaded by Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in 2007. NCSS also will use $12 million in bonds through the Qualified School Construction Bonds with a 0 percent interest rate, as previously decided by administration and recently approved by the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission.

Carpenter said Wednesday that construction crews are scheduled to begin the building in mid-October. The academy is expected to be completed by December 2011 for an anticipated opening date of January 2012.

Between 300 and 600 students -- mostly juniors and seniors from each NCSS high school -- are expected to attend classes in the school during the first year of operations; eventually, up to 1,000 students could make up the school, where mostly upper-level career, technical and agricultural education courses will be offered.