It was a dinner conversation in December 2012 between husband and wife Jay and Tracy Brooks that would ultimately lead to the vision and dream of establishing a new school in Aiken. And Friday morning, ground was broken for Compass Academy at 1200 Toolebeck Road.

The nonprofit learning institution’s first academic school year will start in August 2013. Plans call for the 53,000 square foot facility to be completed in May 2013.

“We have two young boys, ages 7 and 4, and we started talking about school, and thought Aiken needed more options,” said Tracy Brooks, Compass Academy, head of administration, who went out and assembled the team that shares the same objectives and will be the driving force behind the building of the new school. “The schools we have are wonderful, but there just aren’t enough options. He (Jay) looked at me, and said, ‘Why don’t you build one,’ and that’s how we arrived today.”

Compass Academy will be home to a high school, middle school and elementary school. The maximum size of a class will be limited to 16 students, with two classes per grade. The student body capacity will not exceed 416 students. The K-12 school will place an emphasis on college preparatory academics, leadership and character development.

It was during a visit by the Brookses to Aiken in November of 2006 to enjoy a hybrid Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration with Tracy’s family that Jay fell in love with the area. The couple relocated to Aiken from Dallas, Texas, in May 2008.

“In the past four years, we have really tried to plant our roots and flag here, and do everything we could to get engaged in the community,” said Jay. “Tracy has a pioneering spirit. She can’t sit still. If she sees something that needs to be done, she says, ‘You know what, somebody’s got to do it. It might as well be me because I care about it, so therefore let’s get the job done.’”

Bonnie Culbertson will be the school’s headmaster.

Compass Academy will hold open enrollment on Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. at the main office on Toolebeck Road. The school still needs to fill a number of faculty positions, having filled about 70 percent of its roster.

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