Ombudsman plans to move to permanent location

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System's alternative education program plans to move to a permanent location.

Last week, the Newton County Board of Education signed an amendment to a contract with Ombudsman, the private company being used by NCSS this year to run the alternative program.

Ombudsman has located a building for lease at 10714 Bypass Road, near the school system's transportation facility, that it plans to use for their permanent site, hopefully by the end of this year.

Since the beginning of the school year, the program has been housed at the Sharp Learning Center facility because the state Department of Education failed to approve two sites in Newton County due to their proximity to locations that sold alcohol.

"While I don't know the anticipated move date, Ombudsman will begin preparing the facility on Covington Bypass immediately and will move there upon receiving a certificate of occupancy," said RaNae Fendley, director of Student Services at NCSS. "Both (middle and high school) Ombudsman sites will be located in the one building on the Covington Bypass."

The new location is 10,000 square feet. It is expected to house two separate programs of about 4,000 square feet each on opposite sides of the building with a 2,000-square-foot office space between the two entrances, which would be about 50 yards apart.

The school board met with Ombudsman officials earlier this month to discuss changes to the original agreement that would allow for the program to move to a new location and also pay rental fees to NCSS for usage of the old Sharp building.

The new contract amendment also allows for Ombudsman to pay rental fees of $385 per day for the usage of Sharp; currently, the company is paying for utility costs at Sharp. NCSS said it does not yet know what the final revenues will be.

"An exact dollar amount won't be determined until Ombudsman exits Sharp as it is based on the number of days they occupy the facility," said Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of Public Relations at NCSS.

Currently, about 150 students are enrolled in the program.

NCSS saved $1,941,962 from its general fund budget 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.