VWSD picks Option 1: School bond referendum set for March 27

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Warren County school trustees have approved a $132 million plan to renovate and expand the school district’s existing buildings and issue $83 million in general obligation bonds to help pay for the work.

The vote was 5-0 for the project, known initially as “Option 1.”

A special referendum on the bond issue will be March 27. The voting precincts will be at Vicksburg and Warren Central High schools. If the bond issue is approved, bids for the project would be awarded in late 2018 and it will take about two years for fully complete the work, Gary Bailey with Dale/Bailey Architects told the board.

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Besides the $83 million bond issue, the trustees will need to consider additional funding sources for the project, like lease-purchase options and other funding plans.

“We’re making history; we haven’t done anything for our children’s future in the past 33 years,” board of trustees president Bryan Pratt said.

“I want y’all to know as a community that this board has done a lion’s share of work to come to this point and y’all know that,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy said. “This has been a couple of years of work, and I want to commend them because they have done a great job representing y’all. They have listened.

“We’re making this decision for our community. We know that this particular effort is every body’s voice. We took ample time, and they have done an excellent job.”

Option 1, a plan to renovate and expand the school district’s existing buildings, with additional career academies at the two high schools and shared academies at the Hinds Community College Campus, was one of four proposals to upgrade school district facilities presented to the board in November by Bailey.

It and Option 3, to build a new Vicksburg High School on the Warren Central campus with a shared career academy and a new shared athletic complex, were the two options recommended by Bailey.

Option 3, Bailey said, would require the school district to buy additional property.

Under Option 1, he said, the school district will keep Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools at their present sites and do extensive renovations and expansion to the elementary and junior high schools.

“You’re renovating, you’re expanding, you’re adding classrooms where you need to,” he said, adding the plan includes a second magnet elementary school at Grove Street, and construction of a new academy of innovation between the junior high schools to encourage expanding programs at the junior high schools and the academy.

Bailey said the high schools are the major projects under the plan, “And it takes them to a whole other level.”

The center of the plan involves taking and expanding the academy of innovation to each campus with additional shared academies. It also recommends improving and expanding each school’s athletic complexes.

Trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. said Option 3 could eventually lead to consolidating the high schools.

“It’s obvious what’s going to happen in my opinion, you just take a corridor and join them together, and you have one school,” he said. “A picture is worth a thousand words; you get it and I get it, too.”

Trustee Alonzo Stevens also favored Option 1.

“We have two high schools, and to move one to the other one would be giving up one high school, and a lot of people that I represent can’t see past that,” he said. “If we’re going to have two high schools, let’s make them as great as we can make them and live with it.”

Pratt and trustee Sally Bullard both favored Option 3, but said they would vote for option 1 if the rest of the board favored it. Pratt said the option took advantage of the atmosphere cooperation between facilities being developed in the district.

“I personally feel Option 3 would give us some advantages, but I can go with Option 1,” Pratt said.

“I think that Option 3, as far as academically, it moves in the direction we want to move in, that it gives our children a chance to advance,” Bullard said, “But I will vote in favor of either one, because no child is going lose in either of these options.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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