A new player is entering the Milledgeville-Baldwin County education arena.
Milledgeville Prep, a new local Christian private school, hasn’t held its first day of school yet, but already has big plans for its athletics teams.
The school hosted a community forum at local event venue Simply Southern Barn Tuesday attended by families wanting to learn more about the athletic opportunities that the school plans on providing. Attendees were introduced to the school’s president/athletic director Jason Copenhaver and first head football coach, Chase Fowler.
A second forum, more focused on the school’s academic side, has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m., also at Simply Southern Barn. Copenhaver told The Union-Recorder last week that Milledgeville Prep will have traditional K-2 classrooms while grades 3-12 will take part in online learning.
Plans for Milledgeville Prep were publicly announced just a couple of weeks ago by school officials. Initially, the school was just going to be a nonprofit athletic program aimed at providing opportunities for underserved students in the area, such as those that are homeschooled or attend a school without sports teams. According to Copenhaver, prospective families expressed interest in having a more affordable local private school option. Thanks to some private financial backing, what started as an athletics endeavor turned into a full-fledged school. Now the school is working on driving enrollment so that it can open its doors for the start of the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 1. Milledgeville Prep’s athletics will be open to its full-time students, part-time students splitting time between Prep and homeschool, and distance learners taking online courses from home.
The Union-Recorder attended the athletics forum Tuesday to learn more about the new private school’s efforts. The event lasted one hour, and approximately 35 people were in attendance. Among them was a good mix of adults and school-aged children.
At the start of the forum, Copenhaver revealed that Milledgeville Prep becoming a full-fledged school has only been in the works since February.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said, “but we know one important thing, and that’s that God is definitely in this. I believe that God has a hand in this school and He is guiding me.”
Other than deciding what sports the school will carry, one other important factor must be taken into consideration when starting an athletic program from scratch — choosing a school mascot.
“We looked at everything that was either an ‘m’ name or a ‘p’ name,” said Copenhaver.
Ultimately, it was decided that the school’s athletic teams will be known as the Milledgeville Prep Miners. Copenhaver pointed to the area’s connection to kaolin mining as the main reason for the decision. The logo features the head of a miner wearing a helmet with a headlamp and two crossed pickaxes below. The athletic director/president then painted a picture for the school’s vision pertaining to athletics.
“We wanted to create athletic opportunities for all students in Milledgeville and the surrounding communities,” he said. “That is our overall vision. We want all students in Milledgeville to have the opportunity to participate in sports and athletics.”
Milledgeville Prep wants to have its athletic programs up and running by the time school starts in August so student-athletes can compete in fall sports. The school plans to have football, girls volleyball, and cheerleading available to its middle and high school students this fall. Copenhaver said Fowler has been on the phone in recent days putting together the Miners’ schedule for the inaugural season. Since enrollment is currently unknown, Milledgeville Prep is operating under the possibility that it may have an 8-man football program as opposed to traditional 11-man. Beyond that, Milledgeville Prep is looking at having basketball in the winter and baseball, softball, soccer during spring.
“That is our lineup,” Copenhaver said. “That is what we want to accomplish. I know for some of you, that sounds like a lot of sports and a lot to get going. One thing you’re going to get from me is somebody that’s going to hustle, work hard, and burn the midnight oil for your students to get the most out of school.”
Tuition has been promoted heavily at Milledgeville Prep since the school was announced. Attendance cost sits at an even $4,000 before the mandatory $500 building fee. An additional $500 will be charged to students per semester that they participate in athletics or arts extracurriculars. Copenhaver educated attendees on fundraising avenues the school is making available to offset those costs.
For its younger students, Milledgeville Prep has junior athletic camps scheduled throughout this summer and into the start of the school year. Copenhaver added K-5 students will be encouraged to join local church-run sports leagues except for basketball, which Milledgeville Prep plans on running.
“That’s not just for Milledgeville Prep kids, that’s for all community kids,” he said of the junior basketball league.
Copenhaver then formally introduced Chase Fowler who will serve as Milledgeville Prep’s first football coach. Fowler is originally from Danville, Ga. and attended Dublin High School where he played football. He has served on several coaching staffs since entering the field in 2008, including Portal High School, Wilkinson County, Bleckley County, East Laurens, and he is currently at Athens Christian School. Fowler addressed the crowd for a few minutes and gave a quick overview of his coaching philosophy, even tying into the school’s newly-announced mascot.
“Miners are tireless workers,” he said. “Mining is tough and hard work, and we’re going to chip away every day. But we’re also never going to tire of doing what’s good and right.”
Copenhaver, who it was revealed will also be the football team’s offensive coordinator and head basketball coach, returned to the microphone to close out the presentation.
“I believe this school — this athletics department, the arts department, and everything about it — is going to radically change this community,” he said. “I have no doubt. … One thing you will get from us as leaders of this school is that we are never, never ever going to schedule activities that are going to compete with your family or your church.”
Once the floor was opened up for questions, it was revealed that Milledgeville Prep will compete independently of any association and compete in homeschool league championships with the goal being to join the GICAA (Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association) or GISA (Georgia Independent Schools Association) if the school grows. As for home athletic venues, since Milledgeville Prep does not have a school building yet, Copenhaver said he has been in talks with the local recreation department for the use of its facilities.