STEM ap­proved at old NHS

Fu­ture of the New­ton High School build­ing still un­de­cided

The Covington News - - The Second Front - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­news.com

New­ton’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion has ap­proved net­work­ing equip­ment for its new STEM (science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, and math) pro­gram, which will be housed at the old New­ton High School. How­ever, a de­ci­sion on whether to raze the old high school build­ing is still on the ta­ble.

The BOE voted 4 to 1 to ap­prove $73,264.46 for net­work­ing equip­ment for its new STEM pro­gram. Gary Shat­tuck, di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy and me­dia ser­vices for the New­ton County School Sys­tem, made the rec­om­men­da­tion at the board’s June 25 meet­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Acad­emy Prin­ci­pal James Woodward, the new STEM pro­gram, also known as the STEM In­sti­tute, will have 54 ris­ing ninth-grade stu­dents, who will be ex­posed to rig­or­ous aca­demic and real-world in­dus­try cour­ses taught by ex­perts in their fields.

At the meet­ing, Shat­tuck said the STEM pro­gram would be lo­cated in the ninth-grade wing of the old New­ton High School. He said that the cur­ricu­lum and in­struc­tion staff had planned to use the pre-ex­ist­ing net­work equip­ment at the old New­ton High to pro­vide tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture for the STEM pro­gram, but the equip­ment was not ad­e­quate.

In­fin­ity Net­work So­lu­tions, out of Ma­con, will pro­vide the new equip­ment.

How­ever, be­fore ap­prov­ing the new equip­ment, BOE mem­ber Ed­die John­son voiced his con­cerns about the STEM pro­gram be­ing placed in the old high school since it re- mains un­clear whether the build­ing will ul­ti­mately be de­mol­ished. John­son added that he was un­der the im­pres­sion the new STEM pro­gram would be housed in the New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Acad­emy.

“Are we in­ter­fer­ing with the raz­ing of the (old) school by plac­ing this pro­gram there? Be­cause there has been no de­ci­sion, as I know of, as to what to do with it,” John­son said.

Shat­tuck said the STEM ini­tia­tive will be con­nected to the Ca­reer Acad­emy, but

there isn’t enough space in the ca­reer acad­emy to ac­com­mo­date the num­ber of classes the pro­gram will of­fer. He added that the ninth-grade wing of the old New­ton High is ad­ja­cent to the Ca­reer Acad­emy and would be able to han­dle the pro­gram in its ini­tial stages.

NCSS for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Gary Mathews said Dennis Car­pen­ter, NCSS’s for­mer deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of op­er­a­tions, pre­vi­ously in­formed the BOE that money for raz­ing New­ton High School was set aside in the bud­get, but the de­ci­sion to do so was up to the board.

As for the STEM pro­gram, Mathews said, “The nat­u­ral place would be ad­ja­cent to NCCA, be­cause of all of the ex­per­tise that re­sides there. I see no rea­son why the rest of the build­ing can’t be razed be­cause of the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of that one wing.”

Mathews rec­om­mended that the board leave the ninth-grade wing as is for the initiation of the STEM pro­gram and also leave the old NHS au­di­to­rium for the use of the New­ton County Arts As­so­ci­a­tion. He did not have a rec­om­men­da­tion on what to do with the schools’ gym­na­sium.

John­son said the board needed proper plan­ning be­fore ap­prov­ing the STEM ini­tia­tive.

“Be­fore we nickel and dime on this build­ing, we need some fun­da­men­tal plan­ning as to what the to­tal struc­ture will look like,” John­son said. “To go spend­ing this money is a waste of tax­payer dollars if it in­fringes on a de­ci­sion that can be made later on. And I un­der­stand, I am for the STEM pro­gram, but we have not done the proper plan­ning here in my view.”

BOE Chair Abi­gail Cog­gin said mak­ing a de­ci­sion on raz­ing the old high school was not on the June 25 agenda, but said she was fine with putting it on the agenda for a fu­ture meet­ing. How­ever, she did agree with John­son’s state­ments.

“You are absolutely right; there has not been a for­mal de­ci­sion made on the raz­ing of New­ton High, just like Sharp has been sit­ting empty for sev­eral years, and there has not been a de­ci­sion there,” Cog­gin said. “If we are go­ing to start raz­ing build­ings and th­ese schools, we need to do it with all of the other schools sit­ting empty, too.”

Cog­gin then asked for a mo­tion to ap­prove the monies for the STEM pro­gram equip­ment. BOE mem­ber Jeff Meadors made a mo­tion to ap­prove pur­chas­ing net­work­ing equip­ment for the pro­gram, with a sec­ond from board mem­ber Shakila Hen­der­son-Baker.

The mo­tion was ap­proved 4 to 1, with John­son op­pos­ing.

Funds to cover the pur­chase will come from the tech­nol­ogy depart­ment’s fis­cal year 2013-14 cap­i­tal projects al­lot­ment. The net­work­ing equip­ment pur­chase would be tied to the ex­ist­ing con­tract for net­work­ing equip­ment and ca­bling that the school sys­tem has in place for the new high school, which was ap­proved by the BOE in Au­gust 2012.

Danielle Ever­son /The Cov­ing­ton News

Net­work­ing equip­ment for the Science Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math pro­gram will be housed at the old New­ton High School.

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