COVINGTON — Newton County School System’s alternative education program finally has a permanent location.
Ombudsman, the private company being used by NCSS this year to run its alternative program, moved into its stand-alone building on the Bypass Road after waiting for months to find a location.
“The staff did a wonderful job finalizing the move on Saturday and Sunday,” said John Wacha, assistant vice president of Center Operations for Ombudsman.
He said everything is now fully operational after the program was transferred from the Sharp Learning Center facility on Newton Drive.
Since the beginning of the school year, the program has been housed at the Sharp facility because the state Department of Education failed to approve two sites in Newton County due to their proximity to locations that sold alcohol.
The new location is located at 10714 Bypass Road near the school system’s transportation facility.
It is 10,000 square feet and houses two separate programs of about 4,000 square feet each on opposite sides of the building with a 2,000-square-foot office space between the two entrances, which is about 50 yards apart.
“We’ve had a good response from visitors to the center,” Wacha said. “It presents a nice high-tech state of the art facility.”
Wacha said 123 students in sixth through 12th grades currently are enrolled in the program this semester.
Last semester, about 60 percent of about 200 students were transitioned back to their home schools after following the school’s behavior expectations, attendance policy, center rules and passing a majority of their courses, Wacha said.
He said he doesn’t have a final figure of what his company will end up paying NCSS for the use of Sharp last semester, but it will amount to $345 per day, plus utilities that it has been paying.
Ombudsman also paid for the lease space for two other spaces they reserved earlier this year for the two sites.
Wacha said his company has been in contact with the Georgia Department of Education and the state house and senate to discuss changes to the law that prohibited its new centers across the state from opening in locations near a grocery store and a restaurant because they sold alcohol.
The program plans to hold an open house at the new building later this semester. Wacha said parents of current students, as well as any NCSS employee, can stop by anytime the facility is open to view the facility and students.
NCSS saved $1,941,962 from its general fund budget this school year by eliminating the Sharp Learning Center alternative education program and contracting with Ombudsman to provide the alternative education services. With the Ombudsman program, NCSS expects to spend $1,245,500 on alternative education this year.