VWSD facilities subject of sessions

Published 8:29 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

Members of the community gathered at Vicksburg High School Thursday evening for the second of three community listening sessions being held by the Vicksburg Warren School District as part of a facility study.

The meeting was attended by about 20 members of the community as well as members of the VWSD Board of Trustees and superintendent Chad Shealy, and was facilitated by Pat Ross of Bailey Education Group, which is performing the study.

“We were very clear when we began to talk to the board about what they wanted, and the concern was we want to know what our community wants,” Shealy said. “That is why we are here. No punches held, no decisions being made, nothing is in the works and nobody is trying to hide their cards. This meeting is for you to have a voice.”

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The first stage of the study was site assessments at every VWSD school. Bailey Education also looked at population data and expected growth to determine the potential issues facing VWSD schools based on student enrollment.

At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, Ross presented the initial findings from the study to the community before facilitating a discussion where those gathered could offer their opinions on the state of facilities.

“They walked into no building that they would condemn for sure or had any structural questions about them,” Ross said. “You have no buildings that are unsafe for children. Your buildings are better and newer than others like any school system in the state.”

Ross said they did find “some things that need to be improved upon” including issues with the roofs, electrical systems and floors, which he said is common for schools more than 10 years old.

The one major issues they did find was what he deemed “substantial overcrowding” at Vicksburg High, Warren Central High and Warren Central Junior High due mostly to changes in education not population growth.

“They teach more than just English at the schools today,” Ross said. “They teach Spanish, French, Latin. They all need classes. They teach STEM and what do they need to teach that? They need space, equipment. The programs at a lot of the schools throughout the state have expanded, which causes some overcrowding in high school specifically.”

The floor was then opened to those gathered to discuss the state of facilities as they saw them and to see where they stood on the issue of whether VWSD needs one or two high schools.

Vicksburg High senior Alyssa Cabezas was the first to speak, and she expressed her irritation with various problems throughout the school including leaking windows, stage lights not working in the auditorium, old bathrooms and the state of the track at Memorial Stadium.

“I feel like Vicksburg High is looked down upon because of how we are portrayed,” Cabezas said.

“Warren Central is up here and we are down here. That is not the thing. We just get bad publicity.”

Cabezas said she was unsure on whether there should be one or two high schools, but she did feel it would have to be a new school with a new mascot not a Viking or Gator if the two schools merged.

Others in attendance were split on the issue of merging the schools with Sue Wolfe saying she was firmly in favor of one high school.

“Not being a native of Vicksburg, I have been hearing this for 20 years,” Wolfe said. “Why are there other communities or cities have merged into one high school and why are we still showing segregation. If it ever came to a vote, my vote would be yes. Not being a native of Vicksburg and continue year after year seeing Warren Central being put on a pedestal and seeing Vicksburg being out on a stool, yes we need to merge.”

Overall, the community was in agreement that there are issues with the facilities throughout the district.

“We want A schools, we don’t want to be a B,” Milton Butler said. “We don’t want to settle for less, but you need good facilities. If you are in something nice you be nice, but if it isn’t nice you feel like they don’t care.”

The district will be hosting one more community listening session Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Warren Central High in gym A starting at 6 p.m.

“This is a time where you talk about your vision for our community, what you desire for our facilities, what you think can make a difference for students in our community,” Shealy said. “We really want to hear what you all say, because what you say is important to us.”