Ombudsman picks Newton sites

Photo by Stephen Kubiak

Photo by Stephen Kubiak

COVINGTON -- The two Newton County sites for the privatized alternative education program for students have been finalized.

Ombudsman, a national provider of alternative education, plans to open two sites in the fall for the 2011-12 school year -- a west location at 13015 Brown Bridge Road, Suite 610, in the Publix Plaza near Salem Road in Covington and an east location at 10154 Carlin Drive near Johnny's Pizza at the Covington Bypass in Covington.

Ombudsman provides alternative education in about 25 school systems and nearly 50 sites in Georgia and more throughout the United States.

Earlier this year, the Newton County Board of Education approved Ombudsman to take over alternative education after a recommendation from Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews.

This upcoming school year, NCSS plans to save $1,941,962 by eliminating the Sharp Learning Center alternative education program and contracting with Ombudsman to provide the alternative education services.

With the Ombudsman program, NCSS expects to spend $1,245,500 on alternative education. This includes $354,000 tuition for 60 middle school slots and $798,000 for 140 high school slots, as well as $93,500 for transportation.

The program is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and other accreditation organizations as a whole and at each site.

Students would attend three- or four-hour sessions each weekday and would follow the NCSS calendar; about 70 percent of the curriculum is computer-based with the other portion being teacher-led instruction and remediation, Ombudsman officials said.

Staff would include a director, a certified special education teacher and three other instructors. Preferential interviews are being offered to previous Sharp staff.

Students must pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests to earn a diploma; students can receive an Ombudsman diploma if they continue to repeatedly fail state tests, Ombudsman officials said.

So far, NCSS has no plans for the Sharp Learning Center building on Newton Drive, according to Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for NCSS. For several years, it has been phased out of state funding, meaning that state dollars cannot be used for repairs and updates, but it is still owned by NCSS and can be used by the system as it has been in the past.

Also this year, the building that once housed Palmer-Stone Elementary School on Ga. Highway 81 in Oxford will serve a different purpose. The building, which recently was phased out of state funding along with Newton High School and Ficquett Elementary School, will serve as centralized storage, a base location for itinerant teachers and the location of the Mainstay program that was housed at Sharp, Carpenter said.

All of Palmer-Stone's students, as well as students from select other elementary schools, will attend the new Flint Hill Elementary School beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

Ficquett will serve as the location of the parent-involvement theme school this upcoming school year.