Bibb charter school has new home

obrown@macon.comJanuary 10, 2014 

After a monthslong search for a new home, ACE has a place in north Bibb County.

Contracts were signed Friday that will enable the Academy for Classical Education, Bibb County’s first charter school, to locate at 5665 New Forsyth Road. That’s the site of former GE Capital/First Data office and warehouse buildings.

“All systems are go,” said Laura Perkins, one of the school’s founders. “It’s a beautiful site ... (and) meets all our needs.”

So far, about 800 students have applied to attend the school, which will offer kindergarten through eighth-grade classes when it opens in August.

The site is about 39 acres and is located less than a mile east of the Bass Pro Shops facility. One building is about 180,000 square feet, and another is about 20,000, according to documents filed with the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The property will be developed for primary, elementary and middle school students by later this year, with a high school build-out by 2018. Perkins said there are plans to buy the property outright within four years through a bond issue.

There are almost 500 parking spaces and ample open space on the site. P&Z documents call for a new football/soccer field, a general purpose play field in time and plans to upgrade an existing softball field.

Perkins said she had hoped to find a site closer to town, but the one chosen “meets all our needs.”

Charter schools are publicly funded. They operate under a charter, pledging that they’ll produce certain results in student achievement in exchange for some latitude from particular state education mandates. Charter school students take state standardized tests and do not pay tuition.

Perkins said she anticipates getting the school’s charter in February.

She said she and co-founder Esterine Stokes chose the site in November after an eight-month search, which included checking dozens of places across Bibb County. The site is ideal to support the school’s expected growth, she said.

The campus will include a K-1 primary school adjacent to the main school facility. P&Z documents say the school could have up to 1,340 students by the 2017-2018 school year, and the site can accommodate more than 1,600 students.

School officials have interviewed about 60 prospective teachers so far, Perkins said, but hires won’t come until the application process is finished and the number of classes is set.

The school is holding an information session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Harvest Cathedral, located at 2254 Rocky Creek Road.

As Perkins and others complete due diligence on the site, school officials will present their plan to zoning officials Jan. 27.

Another charter school, the Macon Charter Academy, also is in the works. The Bibb County school board overwhelmingly supported both charter proposals in September.

To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396.

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