Theme school growth would cost more

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Theme School could grow over the next few years, but that means more costs to the Newton County School System.

Last week, NCSS officials reported to the Newton County Board of Education that next school year, the theme school hopes to add a seventh grade. Currently, the school, which focuses on parent involvement, serves kindergarten through sixth grades.

The cost of adding three additional teaching positions during the 2012-13 school year would cost $150,000, and the cost of adding two more the next school year to add an eighth grade would cost $100,000. NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said five teachers may be required to add an eighth grade.

"I think it's an expenditure worth making," he said.

It's not likely that current staff could be moved from the home schools to aid this request because only a few students usually come from each grade level in each school since it is a choice school open to any student in Newton County, school officials said.

"It's a real strong academically performing school," Mathews said.

Currently, 746 students are enrolled at the theme school, which is housed in the Ficquett building in Covington.

Mathews said its possible by adding more students that the school will be forced to use the modular buildings as classrooms or use part of the Sharp Learning Center since the theme school already is at capacity.

"Whichever way you go, there are additional expenses," Mathews said.

Some school board members were concerned about using the buildings since schools were redistricted last year to avoid overcrowding. The board discussed putting a cap on the incoming kindergarten class next school year so as not to turn any current students away from the program.

At first, the program did not have any caps on the grade levels because the school system was trying to grow it, said Dr. Ken Proctor, executive director of Elementary Curriculum at NCSS.

With all of the planned growth, there will be more issues to think about, NCSS officials said.

The school system will have to decide if students can play sports and participate in other extracurricular activities at their assigned home schools or create some activities at the theme school. Additionally, it will have to be determined if the theme school will have an elementary or middle school schedule or some combination of both.

Mathews said that he has met with school Principal Ruth Anne Smith about plans for expansion, and the school board also plans to meet with her to come up with a plan and relevant board policies.