COVINGTON, Ga. — Members of the Newton County Schools Board of Education heard an update of the district’s capital improvement plan April 26 concerning ongoing and future facilities projects.
Discussion centered on the impending completion of the new Eastside High School, plans for the existing Eastside High School’s facility, and upgrades for Sharp Stadium, among other facilities.
A capital improvement plan is a short range plan for a district’s capital projects. Newton County’s plan is laid out over a five year period, said Chief Operations Officer Michael Barr. A plan is specifically designed to outline potential purchases, construction, planning schedules and identify options for financing the plan.
In a presentation to the board, Barr and Director of Facilities Scott Rains detailed the progress and potential timeline for numerous projects included in the plan dated July 2022-June 2026.
Goals for the district’s latest plan include “providing an optimal learning environment for students, which includes maintaining current facilities and constructing new facilities; ensure that accommodating for long-term growth; ensure students have access to technology supports and learning; provide safe and reliable transportation for students,” Barr said.
To draft such a plan, Barr said several prerequisites were conducted including facility assessments, analysis of enrollment trends and population trends, identifying and prioritizing needs, getting cost estimates and determining potential funding sources.
Project No. 1 was the replacement of Eastside High School — one that has been underway since before 2020. A new facility, located off Georgia Hwy. 142 near U.S. Hwy. 278, has been under construction since officials broke ground on the site in January 2020. Rains said the school was set to open for students and staff in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year. Board members were scheduled to tour the facility May 11. With a total budget of more than $60 million, the facility was funded with a combination of general obligation bond funds and monies from ESPLOST V.
ESPLOST V was approved in 2018 by voters to run from 2020-2024, which would draw revenue to fund projects such as the EHS replacement and various capital improvements.
After the new Eastside High School is complete, project No. 2 will feature the relocation of Newton County Theme School to the existing Eastside facility.
Rains said this could be done with a proposed budget of $13 million, which would fund roofing, flooring, lighting, classroom, restroom, auditorium and kitchen renovations. Completion of the project was anticipated for fall 2023.
Next would be a focus on maintenance and improvements to several schools across the district — specifically millions of dollars in HVAC upgrades, lighting, roofing and paving projects. Schools to see upgrades would include Clements Middle, Cousins Middle, Indian Creek Middle, the current EHS facility, Middle Ridge Elementary, West Newton Elementary, Mansfield Elementary and Heard-Mixon Elementary. Work could begin as early as this summer, Rains said, and much would be funded through the state capital outlay.
These projects were approved by the board as part of a Local Facilities Plan that the school system is required to develop by the State Board of Education to qualify for state capital outlay funding.
Big changes are also planned for Sharp Stadium, including the installation of artificial turf. The estimated cost is currently $1.7 million, potentially to be paid from the General Fund budget. However, if the board chooses to go in a different direction, ESPLOST V funds could be used, Barr said.
Rains said the timeline to get turf installed was as early as March 2023 — work getting started after the season ends in the fall of 2022.
Field lights were also planned to be replaced for an estimated $450,000 from ESPLOST V funds.
Sharp Stadium is a facility shared by Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools’ athletic teams.
Other facility projects included the demolition of the Sharp Middle School building (facing Newton Drive) for $1.1 million; replacing the track at Alcovy High School for $600,000; the construction of a softball field at Clements Middle School; “laser grading” the football field at Indian Creek Middle School; and installing a new sound system at Newton High School’s gymnasium.
How quickly these projects come to fruition depends on the funding source, Barr said. He said the estimated timelines were predicated on the idea that some projects — such as purchasing school buses and installing turf at Sharp Stadium — would be paid for through the General Fund.
“If that’s not the case, and the board chooses not to go that direction, many of these projects would be delayed,” he said.