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School board approves funding application for NHS replacement

COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Education has given the go-ahead for the Newton County School System to apply for funding for a replacement facility for Newton High School.

School systems in Georgia that show a space need may apply to the Georgia Department of Education for funding for projects included in a current and approved facilities plan. With its updated plan revised last school year, NCSS has identified a need to replace NHS, which earlier this year was phased out of state funding along with Ficquett and Palmer Stone elementary schools.

With the school board's unanimous approval during its monthly meeting last week, NCSS will ask for $29,169,232 in state funding through a 2012 capital outlay application. It would be funded through Qualified School Construction Bonds, which were authorized by the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In July, NCSS applied for authorization to use $11 million in QSCB funds to ensure adequate initial funding; they are expected to be issued by Dec. 31.

With the total cost of construction and equipping the new high school expected to be about $43 million, other funds would come from special purpose local option sales tax and other local sources of revenue, according to NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews.

NCSS plans to submit the application to the GaDOE by its Friday deadline. Construction would start in April 2013 and continue until July 2013, with the school expected to be open by the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, according to Dennis Carpenter, Deputy Superintendent of NCSS.

The school system hasn't yet announced where the new school will be built or what will become of the current NHS building on Ram Drive. Although school buildings might be phased out of state funding — which means that any repairs and additions must be funded through local funds — NCSS can still use the buildings for educational programs, as they do with Sharp Learning Center on Newton Drive and the old Cousins Community Center on Geiger Street.

In the future, NCSS also plans to build a replacement high school for Eastside High School, which could have its facility turned into a kindergarten through eighth grade parent involvement theme school or another specialty school, according to previous discussions.