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BOE mulls theme school expansion options
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Some theme school parents have spoken, and they want their middle school-aged students to be able to participate in the same programs they would at the other middle schools in the county, including band and sports.

With the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett slowly expanding to include middle school grades, the board of education looked at options for the expansion during a called meeting Wednesday. After polling some parents of the current fifth and sixth graders, a large majority requested Spanish and band be offered for the students, followed by sports and technology.

The main concern for the board was approving a format for the school in the coming years as seventh grade is added next year and eighth grade the year after that, making the theme school K-8, especially since middle and elementary schools have different start and end times. After some discussion, the board agreed to have the school run on the same time schedule as elementary school (which is what they are currently operating under as a K-6 school), continue to offer K-5 specials (art, music, PE and computer) and four core areas for K-8. That option also includes grades 6-8 specials (band, foreign language, PEcore areas for K-8. That option also includes grades 6-8 specials (band, foreign language, PE/health and art) for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 schools years on a part-time basis. This will cost approximately $100,000 for staff for 2012-13 and 2013-14.

There are currently 759 students at the theme school with the largest population being second graders. That number is expected to go up to 890 next year and 1,000 in 2013-14.

While the board voted to approve the format of the school, they decided to postpone the discussion and consideration of the added extracurriculars until their January board work session and meeting.

The options given to the board to think over are to have a parent committee formed to discuss non-traditional sports options, such as golf or bowling, have theme-school based sports for small groups or individuals, have seventh and eighth graders (sixth graders cannot currently participate in sports) participate in sports at their zoned middle school (with parent transportation), have theme school students participate in sports at one specific middle school (again, with parent provided transportation), or have a hybrid - some students participating in theme school based sports and others to participate at other middle schools.

Academically they are considering adding three additional teaching slots for the 2012-13 year (roughly $150,000) and three for the 2013-14 year (roughly $200,000). They are also looking at using mobile units to hold classes and the possibility of renovations.