Private school Covington Academy is planning to expand and is moving into the former Project Adventure Kids complex on Elks Club Road, where it hopes to grow to 350 students and build a baseball and softball field and eventually a gymnasium.
Even though the property had been used as an educational and recreational facility by now defunct Project Adventure, it had to be rezoned from Agricultural Residential to Agricultural to allow a private school on the property. The Newton County Board of Commissioners approved the rezoning and a conditional use permit Tuesday.
Covington Academy started as A Time for Learning tutoring center in 2006 in the Porterdale Lofts, but is now a K3 (3-year-old kindergarten) through 12th grade school with 224 students located in the original Covington Walmart location off Elm Street by Antiques and Stuff.
Glenn McCollough, who co-owns the school with his wife Amanda, said the school wants to expand out of the 25,000-square-foot building it currently leases because it needs more classroom space and wants to be located next to grass fields, instead of having to hold activities in a parking lot.
“We’re looking for an opportunity to own our school, our own property, and this provided us greenspace. Our kids are really excited about this … possibility of going here. We can have Field Day on a field instead of the parking lot,” Glenn McCollough said Tuesday.
The McColloughs plan to purchase the Elks Club Road property from Newton Federal, which has owned the 17-acre lot and three buildings since the property went into foreclosure in August 2012.
The school, which is a private, Christian school, is joining a new sports league, the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA), a group of small, private Christian schools that play one another in their own leagues to help with scheduling and to allow students to face similar competition, McCollough said.
Currently, the school has to lease recreation facilities in Rockdale County and leases the Conyers Street Gym in Covington for basketball and volleyball. The school plans to build a baseball and softball field on the Elks Club Road site and convert an open field into a soccer field and playground area. Within the next five to 10 years, McCollough hopes the school will be able to build its own gymnasium on site as well.
McCollough said he wants to reach a maximum of 350 students and noted that the three new buildings, at 13,388, 4,616 and 3,360 square feet, respectively, will provide enough space for classrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria, and other activities.
Commissioner Nancy Schulz expressed concern about access to Elks Club Road, which she said is a narrow road that has seen numerous accidents. County Zoning Administrator Judy Johnson said County Engineer Tom Garrett did look at the property, but will do a further evaluation and make recommendations after seeing a traffic count and data, which must be paid for and provided by the McColloughs.
If the McColloughs agree to follow Garrett’s recommendations, they will not have to come back before the Board of Commissioners. However, if the owners were to desire any variance from the recommendations, that would require board approval.
The main drive to the property is also used by its next-door neighbor, so a new road entrance will likely be built, McCollough said. Public schools are required to have two ways to enter and exit, but those rules do not apply to private schools, and the county fire marshal did not suggest a second entrance, Johnson said.
Currently, all Covington Academy students are transported by car, but McCollough said the school is looking at buying two 25-passenger mini buses to provide some transportation; he said the school has many students from Rockdale County.
The school plans to open in its new location in August 2014, McCollough said, noting the building has been vacant for a couple years and will require a lot of work.
The school, which has regular classes Mondays-Thursdays, with Fridays optional, is fully accredited with quality through the Georgia Accrediting Commission, McCollough said. For more information, visit www.covingtonacademy.com.