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BOE approves new alternative program, athletic facilities

At its March 7 meeting the Newton County School System (NCSS) Board of Education (BOE) approved the development of an in-house alternative education and support program as well as construction of a football and soccer field behind Clements Middle School and new concession and restroom facilities for the athletic fields at Alcovy High School.

Although the BOE unanimously recognized the need to replace the current concession and restroom facility that serves the Alcovy High athletic fields, there was disagreement about how best to address that need.

Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent, and Tom Garrett, director of facilities, recommended construction of two 600-square-feet, prefabricated concrete buildings. Each building would include a concession area and restrooms. One would be located near the baseball and softball fields; the other would serve the football field and track. The total cost for both, as bid by CXT, Inc., Spokane Valley, Washington, is $348,560 to be paid using already budgeted funds.

Garrett listed the advantages of using prefabricated concrete construction, saying “The buildings would be highly vandal resistant, a quick construction requiring only a few weeks, low maintenance, resistant to absorbing liquids and odors, a safe refuge in case of storm, and moveable should that ever be needed.”

Eddie Johnson, BOE vice-chair and district 2 member, voiced opposition to the scope of the project.

“We are here, because we failed to do it right the first time,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to make the same mistake.”

Johnson suggested the BOE consider a bigger project to include seating for spectators, a larger concession and restroom facility, and perhaps a press box.

 “We need to postpone this decision and come up with a more adequate plan,” he said.

Trey Bailey, district 1, agreed with the suggestion to postpone the vote and further review the project.

Shakila Henderson-Baker, district 3, expressed concern about building something bigger that Newton High School and Eastside High School would also want.  Garrett reported that the price tag for seating, a field house, and press box would be $4 to 5 million.

The proposed project, to include the two prefabricated concrete buildings, was approved on a 3-2 vote.

The BOE unanimously approved construction of the football and soccer field for Clements Middle School. The contract will be awarded to Precision Turf, LLC, from Buford. Construction of the field and installation of a permanent irrigation system will cost $277,840 and be paid for with budgeted capital funds. Construction will start this spring; the field will be ready for the fall football season.

The establishment of a NCSS alternative program to replace the programming currently provided via contract with a private agency, Ombudsman, was also approved unanimously. Alternative education programs serve students who for one reason or another have difficulty in traditional schools and classrooms.

In Fuhrey’s memo to the BOE, she stated, “While this entity met the educational requirements of the students served, the recommended Newton County Alternative Program model will strive to address academic requirements as well as the social, behavioral, and emotional needs of the students served.”

The annual cost for setup and operations is expected not to exceed $1.2 million, which is the current amount being paid for the contracted services.

The Board also approved the hiring of three teachers and seven staff members, four transfers, nine retirements, and 24 resignations.

Fuhrey and her administrative team presented six recommendations that will be acted on at the BOE’s next meeting. These include:

  • A proposed increase in the cost of paid student lunches per Federal guidelines. If approved students who are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches, would see the cost of their lunch rise by 10 cents next year. Breakfast meal prices would not change. In her memo to the BOE, Fuhrey said, “NCSS student meal prices remain below nearby school districts with similar menus.”
  • Establishment of a proposed salary schedule for occupational therapists, physical therapists, certified occupational therapist assistants, and physical therapist assistants. The district currently has no such salary schedule and these positions are filled via contracts with individual employees or with a third-party agency. If approved, the schedule would begin next year for “newly direct-contract” employees.
  • A proposal to rent the cafeteria at Clements Middle School to Impact Church Ministries which would use it for worship services on Sundays starting April 2. A one-year contract is proposed.
  • Contracts for interactive panels and student agendas were recommended. LeCroy Technology, Toccoa, Georgia was the low bidder for a one-year contract for materials and installation of the panels. The value of the proposed contract is estimated at $396,618. The purchase of student agendas from Premier Agendas, Inc., Bellingham, Washington was proposed. The cost would be $1.79 per agenda for a total of about $43,933.76.
  • The disposal of surplus equipment was proposed.