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Piedmont Academy offers option for Newton County students
Piedmont Academy resides on a 25-acre campus just outside Monticello. (Duane Ford | The Covington News)

Seventy-four Newton County children are enrolled at Piedmont Academy, Monticello this year. That number represents 26 percent of the 280 students studying at this area’s oldest private school.

During the past six years, the number of Newton County students at Piedmont Academy has ranged from a low of 69 in 2012 to a high of 79 in 2011. The school has been and continues to be the school of choice for many Covington and Newton County families.

Alison Hildebrant, admission director, said she was convinced to enroll her daughter, who is now a high school junior, when she first visited Piedmont Academy years ago. That day, the pre-kindergarten students had dressed in their Halloween costumes and Hildebrant watched them do a parade for the high school students. When she saw how the older students interacted with and cared for the little kids, she was sold.

That family atmosphere is what attracts a lot of families to Piedmont Academy, according to Tony Tanner, headmaster. But there are other reasons which Tanner listed, including, a safe environment; less government interference with curriculum, rules, and policies; the opportunity for children to practice their religious beliefs; the fact that the school offers a wide assortment of extra-curricular opportunities, including most of the usual sports; and the opportunity for nearly any child to participate in the extra-curricular activities of his or her choice.

Piedmont Academy was established in 1970. At that time it was the only private school in Jasper, Butts, and Newton counties; the school’s primary service region. Today 94 percent of its students come from these three counties. The school runs two bus routes, one through Newton County, with a Covington stop at Martins Crossing Shopping Center, and one through Butts County. 

It is a non-sectarian Christian, college-preparatory school accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges, AdvancEd, and the Georgia Accrediting Commission. It’s a member of the Georgia Independent School Association. An 11-member board of trustees governs the school.

Piedmont Academy employs a total of 42 people, including 25 teachers. Tanner said, “We have had no difficulty hiring teachers. We look for certified teachers first, but our accrediting agencies also allow us to hire people with a college degree in the field they are teaching.”

As a private school, Piedmont Academy is not required to administer the tests required of public schools, such as those which are part of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. Instead, the school measures kindergarten through grade nine outcomes using the ACT Aspire system and in high school uses the Pre-SAT as well as the SAT and ACT tests. Tanner said, “Our students score above private school averages.”

Unique features include Spanish language instruction in all grades, one of only two FFA chapters in a Georgia private school, a co-educational shotgun team, and extensive opportunities for high school students to earn college credit through dual enrollment with area colleges. In 2016, 98 percent of the high school graduating class enrolled in college. The school’s most well-known alum is country singer Trisha Yearwood, but their alums have found success in many different professions.

Next year, tuition will be $7,000 per year for students in kindergarten through grade five and $7,300 per year for older students. Families with multiple students receive a discounted rate.

Financial aid is available from two sources. Private donations to the school are one source. The other is courtesy of Georgia’s private school tax credit law by which eligible citizens and corporations receive tax credits for donations to a Student Scholarship Organization. The SSO uses the money to provide scholarships to support the private school education of eligible children.

The amount of aid awarded to any Piedmont Academy student depends on an assessment of the financial need of the student’s family with the assessment being done by a third party, School and Student Services. Tanner noted that Piedmont Academy does not give full tuition support to any student, but is able to help all who qualify based on need.

The school is hosting an open house on March 5 and a “drop-in visit day” on March 10 for families and students who want to learn more. However, visits, more information, or an opportunity for a potential student to shadow a current student may be scheduled with Hildebrant on other days.

According to Tanner, Piedmont Academy had more applicants than open seats until the recession hit. However, that economic downturn, as well as increased competition from other area private schools has eliminated the admissions waitlist they once had.