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Newton career academy awaiting opening of permanent building

Staff Photo: Erin Evans Students in the cosmetology program at the Newton College & Career Academy, which is currently housed at Alcovy High School, held a styling competition this week. Pictured is senior Jalin Daniels practicing different curling techniques on a styling mannequine. At the academy this semester, students also are studying engineering, horticulture, culinary and other programs.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans Students in the cosmetology program at the Newton College & Career Academy, which is currently housed at Alcovy High School, held a styling competition this week. Pictured is senior Jalin Daniels practicing different curling techniques on a styling mannequine. At the academy this semester, students also are studying engineering, horticulture, culinary and other programs.

COVINGTON -- The Newton College & Career Academy is in full swing at Alcovy High School this semester, but it's still a work in progress.

Construction crews are working hard to open the new stand-alone facility by January. Originally, the Newton County School System planned to open the new academy in January, but officials decided in the spring to open a smaller program at Alcovy High in the fall in order to have it in operation for the entire school year.

The program currently has about 240 students enrolled -- 21 10th-grade students, 86 11th-graders and 130 seniors.

The school is using some instructors from Georgia Piedmont Technical College, formerly DeKalb Technical College, which was a financial partner for the grant used to build most of the academy.

"We hope to add some courses from Georgia Perimeter College" in the future, said James Woodard, director of the Career, Technical and Agriculture Education program at NCSS and chief executive officer of the career academy.

Woodard said the academy focuses on teaching work ready skills. It is evaluated to make sure students achieve academic and career pathway skills; science, technology, engineering and mathematics literacy; 21st Century workplace skills; professional skills; and personal success skills.

Currently, students are taking classes in horticulture, engineering, construction, cosmetology, culinary arts and agriculture, among others. They will continue these classes when the program is moved to its permanent location on Newton Drive near Newton High School in January because of the high schools' new seven-period schedule, and more programs will be added in the future.

Since construction was started on the permanent building last year, crews have experienced delays because of weather.

"We said from the beginning that it was a tight schedule," said Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent of NCSS.

He said crews are working double shifts and using extra workers to get the job done, and he's also attending weekly meetings with the contractor to make sure the job gets completed on time. The worst case scenario would be for the new school building to have a "soft opening," with only part of the school opening and the rest opening later in the year, Carpenter said.

"We're very excited about getting this building open," Woodard said.

The school is being built for 800 students.

Next school year, about 500 students are expected to be enrolled and about 700 are projected for the following school year.

For the 2012-13 school year, NCSS expects to need about $628,000 in additional operating costs and additional staff for the school and $382,000 for the 2013-14 school year, system officials recently reported to the Newton County Board of Education.

The new school is being developed using $3.05 million in state grant funds awarded as part of the state Georgia Career Academy Project. The program also has secured an $8,000 charter planning grant, $14,500 in Ford PAS Next Generation Learning grants, a $1,345,000 equipment grant and a $30,000 Remote Automation Management Project grant for equipment and software.