Newton Board discuss preliminary site plans for Eastside

The current Eastside High School will be replaced with a new facility off Ga. Highway 142.

COVINGTON — Newton County Board of Education members received a firsthand look at preliminary designs for the new Eastside High School campus at their May 14 meeting.

Ray Moore, an architect with Cunningham, Forehand Matthews & Moore Architects Inc., and Michael Barr, NCSS chief of operations, discussed construction plans with members and addressed their concerns.

The preliminary plans propose that:

♦ The campus will have a boulevard coming straight off Ga. Highway 142 with the buses having their own lane and teachers, students and visitors using a separate lane. The school site is near the intersection of U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 142.

♦ The building will have a primary capacity of 1,650 students, but with the optional future additions of two pods that will be able to accommodate 2,500 students.

♦ The entryway will be “dramatic” and “one-of-a-kind” and will require people to pass through a security vestibule before entering the main area.

♦ The main commons area will allow access to the administration offices, food services, auditorium and gym, also allowing the classroom wing to be closed off to keep visitors from roaming.

One detail that some board members were not accustomed to was the idea that the atrium and the cafeteria will be a shared space.

“I just wonder if that will be enough space since one complaint at the current campus is that the lunch area is crowded,” said BOE member Abigail Coggins.

Barr said that school administrators felt having a shared space will allow for better security measures.

“It will be able to sit a third of a 2,500-student population,” said Moore.

“It’ll be like eating in the mall,” said member Trey Bailey, jokingly.

The classrooms and core of the building (media center, fine arts, CTAE, administration, special education) will be to the left of the commons area, and the gym and all sporting activities will be on the right.

The fine arts wing will have space allowing for band, ensemble, chorus, storage, drama classrooms, practice rooms and direct access to the theatre and parking lot for band travels.

The theatre/auditorium will seat up to 736, with a ticket booth located in the commons area.

Parallel to the fine arts wing will be the CTAE wing with an agriculture lab and classroom, food and nutrition lab, a robotics lab and a tech lab. The agriculture lab will have direct access to a greenhouse.

On the right side of the main entry will be a “two-story” gymnasium with a track above and a gym floor with retractable bleachers that will accommodate 2,500 people. There will be four locker rooms, a training room, ROTC changing rooms, wrestling area, and an auxiliary gym on the floor level. This level will also allow access to the exterior sporting fields.

Outside space has been designed to include a practice soccer field, baseball field, softball field, tennis courts and a football field with enough space for a potential field house, concession stand, a home stadium and visitor bleachers.

Barr said that having a concentrated area for sporting events was recommended by school administrators.

Similar to Alcovy’s parking lot design, the teacher and visitor parking will be in the front of the school and student parking will be along the back, both open to sports-related visitors.

“I’m going to let you know I think this is an issue, “ said BOE Chairwoman Shakila Henderson-Baker. “The lack of parking spaces and accessibility are my biggest concerns. With the likelihood of games happening simultaneously, I think more designated space will be needed.”

“Looking at the presentation, parking does look a little far off, but it is fairly close,” said Moore.

Coggins asked if it were possible to redesign the layout of the tennis courts to allow for closer parking, even if it were just a few spaces.

Moore explained that the student parking lot has direct access and there are an additional 40-50 parking spaces for coaches and other sports personnel.

In spite of being built on 107 acres, the campus has been compressed and expanding parking further is limited due to a required water basin, property lines along Highway 142 and the location of the small cemetery near student parking. The cemetery will be fenced, gated and marked.

“Finding an efficient amount of acreage is difficult,” said Henderson-Baker.

Overall, the campus will not be visible from the highway.

Covington native and proud Valdosta State alumna, Hunter has previously worked with The Covington News and Valdosta Daily Times. She started working for Rockdale/Newton Citizen in June 2018.

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