Macon Charter Academy’s opening hits road bump

Macon Charter Academy’s new school building won’t be ready for students Aug. 3, as once expected.

The plan, however, is still to begin classes Aug. 3, when the rest of Bibb County public schools begin, said Charles Rutland, one of MCA’s co-founders.

“We’re working on a backup plan where, even if the actual school building isn’t ready, we would still start classes,” Rutland said.

The building, now under construction, should be ready to turn over to MCA control by Aug. 17, said Steve Moore, superintendent for Triangle Construction.

“We’re not opening on Aug. 3. Our contract, the date to turn over, is Aug. 17,” he said.

Once the school is turned over, it will be functional -- from electrical to plumbing -- but will still need furniture, fixtures and equipment inside.

“I’ve got 900 kids that are depending on me to turn this school over to them on time,” Moore said. “And I don’t plan on letting them down.”

The turn of events, though, is causing some parents to wring their hands.

Some parents said that if the school building, located on Madison Street, isn’t open on Aug. 3, they will consider re-enrolling their child into the Bibb public school their children came from.

If the opening is delayed, Sharon Booker, a parent with two children enrolled at MCA, said she wouldn’t let them attend.

“If it’ll be ready, I think it’ll be a good school,” she said.

Rutland said charter school officials are looking into “alternative locations” where classes could be held during the interim period before the new building can be occupied.

One idea, he said, is using the school’s 14,000-square-foot gymnasium, combined with an old church building, a 7,000-square-foot building, located on the property.

“We haven’t fully worked that out yet, and we’re not quite ready to talk about that, but we are working on a backup plan,” Rutland said. “As of now, it is our intent to start classes Aug. 3.”

Booker said she would be concerned with her children’s grades if the school doesn’t have an adequate facility for student learning for weeks after the rest of the county starts classes.

“They need to get on with their work,” she said. She also doesn’t think putting about 900 students, from kindergarten to eighth grade, all together in one gym (and an old church building) would be a good temporary solution.

The Telegraph spoke with a handful of other parents who also had concerns. Some of them said they wouldn’t mind if classes were delayed and said it would be too hot to start school in August. Others, like Booker, said they worry their children might fall behind academically.

No parent thought teaching school classes in a gym for a couple of weeks was a good idea.

Many parents also expressed a frustration over the lack of communication from MCA administrators, who rely on Facebook for much of its communication with parents.

“They’re not telling anyone what’s really going on,” said Tamya Hogges, a parent of an accepted MCA student.

Hogges said her daughter is excited about the prospect of attending MCA and already has her uniform.

But, given the uncertainty surrounding MCA’s launch date, she isn’t sure what she’ll do now -- whether that’s wait and see or return the uniforms and go back to her former school.

Despite the hurdles, Rutland seemed confident.

“We plan to open the Macon Charter Academy era in Bibb County on Aug. 3,” he said. “That is definitely our plan.”