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Almost ready; Newton High School preparing to open for fall

Custodian Clayton Lightfoot spent Monday waxing hallway floors in the new school. Sixteen custodial staff members are working over the summer to get the school ready for students, who return Aug. 2.

Custodian Clayton Lightfoot spent Monday waxing hallway floors in the new school. Sixteen custodial staff members are working over the summer to get the school ready for students, who return Aug. 2.

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Mark Johnson, right, delivers dirt to Gary Curvin on the back side of the new Newton High School, off Crowell and Jack Neely roads in Covington. They are creating footers to support an awning in an outside sitting area. Staff Photos: Michelle Floyd

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The official Covington address of the school is 1 Ram Way, similar to the old address, 140 Ram Drive.

COVINGTON — The floors are being waxed, furniture is being moved in and workers are putting the finishing touches on the new Newton High School this month.

Construction crews, custodial staff and school system employees are working hard to get the school ready to open for staff at the end of the month and students on Aug. 2.

The new building replaces the former Newton High School, which was built in 1974 and is no longer under state funding, similar to the old Sharp school building on Newton Drive, as well as Palmer Stone and Ficquett elementary schools.

The site, which broke ground in August 2011, is located on nearly 118 acres of land on Crowell Road North that also fronts Jack Neely Road, which was purchased by the Newton County School System in late 2010 for about $2.3 million. The land was previously bank-owned and previously foreclosed on after being abandoned as an undeveloped neighborhood.

The project is budgeted to cost more than $50 million.

McKnight Construction Company Inc. out of Augusta serves as the general contractor of the construction of the school building, and architects from Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews and Moore developed site plans.

The new school’s campus is made up of a two-story 395,125-square-foot building with an auditorium, media center, gymnasium and commons area; a bus parking lot; two parking lots on either side of the building; athletic and practice fields and a sports complex. It also could hold a future stadium or some other feature.

“The building can hold 2,500 students at its maximum,” said Craig Lockhart, deputy superintendent of Schools. “I anticipate that we will maintain our average enrollment of about 1,850 students at this time.”

The school building features a Viewpath S.A.F.E. camera, audio and silent alarm system, which was piloted in several classrooms at the old Newton High School building last school year.

The new system will provide cameras in classrooms and hallways. The system is expected to cost about $500,000, which will be paid for out of capital funds.

The system includes two classroom cameras and a handheld microphone for students to use in class, while the teacher wears a device that amplifies their voices and also houses a silent alarm that alerts the front office and law enforcement. As soon as an alarm sounds, the video kicks in to record any evidence.

Teacher files and some other items already have been moved from the old building and most of the furniture is in place, according to Jan Loomans, director of Operational Services for the Newton County School System.

Administrators already are located in the building, and teachers are expected to begin moving in and setting up rooms after July 15, according to school officials.

Student tours will be given July 24 and 26. Students from various clubs and sports will be trained the week of July 22 to give tours of the building. Open House is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. July 31.

A dedication ceremony is scheduled to be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 25. It will be open to the public.

The official Covington address is 1 Ram Way. Originally, the school’s address was a Crowell Road address; however, Eddie Johnson, then-chair of the Newton County Board of Education, and the board requested in January to rename the entrance road similar to how it was previously addressed, 140 Ram Drive, after the school’s ram mascot.