Issues could be arising for Ultimate Student-Athlete Academy founder Dustin DeVaughn, who had no qualms about admitting the fact he had lofty dreams at Thursday’s press conference in Prattville.
DeVaugn plans to open USA Academy, a prep school with a focus on athletics in Coosada, and he wants it to be virtually immediate.
“(Classrooms) will be on our campus,” DeVaughn said Thursday. “We’re working on temporaries right now. Within the next 14 days, we’re working on a temporary facility right now to go ahead and get athletes in and get them acclimated and get our fall sports lined up with football and cheer.”
DeVaughn said Thursday classes will begin Jan. 20 in those temporary facilities, but there could be some roadblocks DeVaughn and his academy have yet to overcome: zoning.
According to Coosada Mayor Anthony Powell, the Lynn Drive property DeVaughn wants to construct the USA Academy on is zoned agricultural and would have to be rezoned to allow such an operation. Powell said Friday no such rezoning has been requested and rezoning would have to happen before the construction of a school or athletic facility could start.
DeVaughn released a statement Saturday stating things are still on schedule.
“There has been no one coming to the planning committee or council asking for a zoning change,” Powell said Friday. "If all of the adjacent and nearby property owners are in agreement, it can be done quickly. It could get drawn out if someone disagrees. If that happens, there is a process of hearings and meetings before the council makes a decision to grant the request."
With a Jan. 20 deadline of classes beginning, it is unlikely the classes would be held on the Lynn Drive property. Powell said even temporary structures like mobile classrooms require the zoning change and building permits.
Although Powell has spoken to DeVaughn informally, Powell said DeVaughn has not made a formal request about rezoning the property and no one has inquired about obtaining building permits for the property DeVaughn has said USA Academy would be built. On the other hand, DeVaughn said Friday he spoke to Powell and if DeVaughn’s property needed to go through a rezoning process, it was news to him.
"I stand FIRM in my statement that USA Academy will not be delayed from playing football in fall 2020, and we will always follow proper procedural steps to follow local, state, and federal code," DeVaughn said in Saturday's statement. "Yes, we are enrolling students online and will be able to service these students with the best education available as we prepare for our Spring sports programs and fall preparation."
Powell explained the town issues building permits with the help of the Central Alabama Regional Planning Commission which also handles building inspections.
DeVaughn said USA Academy plans to partner with Edgenuity, which is “a leading provider of K-12 online curriculum and blended learning solutions,” according to its website. The educational structure will be a mix of online and in-the-class programs in the hopes of finding the “optimal learning scope” for each student, DeVaughn said at the press conference.
He also said teachers will be hired next week and he already has over 19 interviews set up.
“Obviously we don’t have to have a large staff right now because we’re only enrolling football and cheer for this semester and we’re also taking students — not just enrolling the athletic side,” DeVaughn said. “A student can start immediately because we have a predominantly digital platform.”
After some hesitation about giving a final price tag for the project, DeVaughn did eventually say between $13.5 and $14 million will include a 100-yard indoor facility, a 5,000-seat football stadium, a locker room, a baseball field and classrooms. Dormitories, which are also in the works, are not included in that price tag.
DeVaughn did not say much about where the money is coming from, saying “private investors are private for a reason.” But he did say the school is actively fundraising and some big sponsorships are in the works.
The only person DeVaughn has announced hiring is football coach Rush Propst. At Thursday’s press conference, he said more folks within his organizational chart would be announced on USA Academy’s website Friday, but as of 11 a.m. Sunday, the website had not been updated with any such information.