Tupelo consultants studying local schools for improvements

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2002

[05/22/02]Public school buildings here are being studied by consultants as the Vicksburg Warren School District trustees develop a multiyear, capital-improvement plan.

The study is being done by Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel, a Tupelo-based architectural firm, for $22,000, and includes sessions with faculty and staff for ideas on improvements.

Superintendent Donald Oakes said Tuesday he expects reports in July.

The district, wrapping up its 15th year since formerly separate city and county school districts were combined, operates two high schools, two junior highs, two K-6 schools, five K-4 schools and an alternative school.

Older buildings, including Culkin and Halls Ferry elementaries, were phased out when the two new K-6 schools opened in the fall of 1999. Many of the remaining structures, however, are 30 to 50 years old.

The scope of the study goes beyond examining the buildings themselves, Michael Jones told members of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee on Tuesday in the district administration building.

“We’re doing an analysis of each school to see how the classrooms work,” said Jones, an associate in the firm performing the study. “We’ll look at each campus and try to prioritize” improvement needs.

“We know we have some needs facilities-wise,” Oakes said after the meeting. Oakes said the district needs “an organized plan” to make improvements over the next several years and the firm specializes in schools. If a plan is adopted, it would be the board’s first, he said.

“Our base responsibility will be to get the bare essentials for each classroom,” Jones said, referring to such areas as roofing and air-conditioning.

In its study, the firm is taking care to consider the effects each school’s physical environment can have on its performance, Jones said.

How cafeteria size affects scheduling, for instance, is being taken into account. If too many lunch periods are required due to a too-small cafeteria, it reduces class time, he said.

Also, several schools have media centers designed before computers became commonplace, Jones said. “We may need to update those things,” he said.

Less-tangible factors, such as the effects architecture can have on a school’s image, are being considered as well, Jones said.

“We want them to have a sense of community and a sense of pride in their community,” he said.

Today is the last day of classes for the district’s elementaries before the summer break. Graduation for Vicksburg High School is Thursday night and graduation for Warren Central High School is Friday night.