Career academy to open sooner than expected

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- A plan that began in 1998 will come to fruition sooner than expected. Officials at the Newton County School System announced Tuesday that its Newton College & Career Academy will open in the fall, rather than the original opening of January 2012.

When the 2011-12 school year begins for students in August, some will be able to attend the academy, which will open at Alcovy High School before the NCCA building behind Newton High School opens in January.

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said officials decided it was better for the school to open in this fashion in the fall since the system is switching high schools from the current 4x4 block schedule to a seven-period class day next school year. He said it would be a smoother transition than to start when the new building will be open in January.

"In the past few weeks we've been identifying challenges so we could open in the fall without a building," said James Woodard, director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education at NCSS and Chief Executive Officer for NCCA. "The time frame has been pushed up some."

He said that about 700 students applied to be in the program during open registration last month. Of those, NCSS accepted about 300 students -- its target number -- to initially begin in the program, based on evaluations from school counselors.

When the building opens in January, the students will transition to the new school.

Students will be able to study the following programs: Agricultural Mechanics and Technology; Forestry/Natural Resources; Plant Science/Horticulture; Broadcast/Video Production; Construction; Transportation/Automotive Services; Finance, Accounting and Banking; Interactive Media/Web Design; Computer Systems Repair and Networking; Graphic Design, Communication and Print; Culinary Arts; Engineering and Manufacturing; Early Childhood Education; Government and Public Safety; Health care; Cosmetology; and Marketing (Management, Sports and Fashion).

Base elective programs will continue to be offered at the three Newton County high schools that will feed into the more advanced programs at NCCA for mostly juniors and seniors. NCSS is collaborating on the programs with DeKalb Technical College and other partners in the business community to offer programs.

Woodard warned that some of the programs might not be available at first due to it being the first year and having budget constraints. He added that NCCA plans to expand program offerings in the future. The five major program areas will be health care, public safety, engineering/manufacturing, business computer science and agriculture.

"We want to create an environment where students will be successful," he said.

In the fall of 2012, NCSS hopes to open a Georgia Lottery-funded prekindergarten class at the school for use by the early childhood education program.

He said the federal government has advised the system not to open a ROTC program in the academy, but in the future, officials hope to have a program at each high school. In the past, the system has applied for programs at Alcovy and Eastside high schools but were denied, said Dr. Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction at NCSS.

The school is being developed using $3.05 million in state grant funds awarded as part of the Georgia Career Academy Project, spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. NCSS also will use $12 million in bonds through Qualified School Construction Bonds with a 0 percent interest rate to start the school.

Cagle also recently presented NCCA with a $10,000 grant to support the school's efforts to become a Ford PAS Next Generation Learning Community. The grant was created out of funds raised by Cagle to support college and career academies across the state.

A parent forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 28 at DeKalb Technical College, and a business industry forum is scheduled for 8 a.m. on April 29 at the Newton County Board of Education.

Business leaders, parents, teachers and others are asked to participate in an skills survey on the NCCA Web site, www.newtoncareeracademy.org, to help school leaders determine what gaps exist between the industry and when students complete school.