Trustees have worked to identify needs in recent meetings and a broad assessment was discussed at the March 5 school board meeting.
The first portion of the plan would be funded through a three mill note, which is a funding option in Mississippi that allows school districts to pledge up to three mills for a specified project without issuing bonds. During a work session in a February meeting, trustees noted that an existing three mill note issued in 2010 will be paid off next year, freeing up millage that would allow the school to make the first round of improvements without a tax increase.
Immediate needs that could be funded with the three-mill note this summer include replacing the roof on the main building at Davidson Elementary School that serves grades K-4, a replacement trustees have reported cannot wait a year. The list also includes installing air conditioning in the high school gym at an estimated cost of $70,000 and the purchase of two used school buses at a projected cost of $50,000.
The next round of work would be funded by issuing general obligation bonds, a lengthy process that would include a referendum requiring support from 60 percent of the voters who live in the district and turn out for the election.
The actual dollar amount the school would need for improvements has not been identified, but the school’s bond capacity is just under $7 million. The idea to issue general obligation bonds for improvements has been a matter for discussion during the last year because the current general obligation bonds issued in 1998 will be retired in May.
During the February work session, Young Law Firm Attorney V. Warren Greenlee explained that the school has been levying millage to pay approximately $150,000 annually to retire the 1998 general obligation bonds. Based on that amount, Greenlee estimated the school district could borrow $2 million without raising taxes. At the March 5 meeting, a lengthy list of wants and needs indicated the price tag could be closer to the top end of the school’s bonding capacity.
Superintendent Dr. Michael McInnis opened the floor for discussion about improvements at the school at the March 5 meeting, explaining that the administrative team worked to assess needs. The school’s Maintenance/Transportation Director Craig King shared the list with the school board, explaining that the items are a comprehensive look at needs and wants to generate discussion before the list is narrowed down.
“The bottom line, according to the way the curriculum is going and all of the teachers and administrators agree, they want to build a fifth and sixth grade wing on the end of the junior high building and make that separate middle school,” King explained.
Moving 200 students from the elementary school to the high school/junior high campus, King explained, would require a bigger kitchen and cafeteria. His recommendation to accommodate the extra grades would be to demolish the eastern portion of the high school, starting with the offices east to the main entrance and including the eastern portion of the school that houses the current kitchen and cafeteria and ninth grade classrooms.
“The way all these offices and everything are piece-mealed together, we have a lot of wasted space,” King noted about the maze of high school offices. The portion of the building could be replaced with a new metal building that would have offices, a conference room, a new kitchen and cafeteria, new 9th grade restrooms, he continued.
“We could build a new metal building and have offices and conference room,” King said. “We need to do a face-lift on the school, we are looking like 1960.” He also said updates on the existing portion of the high school could integrate the old and new buildings.
Elementary School Recommendations
Next King shifted to work at the elementary school, proposing to demolish the current fifth and sixth grade building and gym.
“We want to push it all down and build something like this multi-purpose building,” King said, referring to the multi-purpose building at the high school. He also said the multi-purpose building could house the library and eventually classrooms for kindergarten and pre-K students.
“When you pop over that hill, the first thing you see is that old ugly, wore-out gym,” King added. “I don’t trust those bleachers (in the gym), we have plumbing issues, roof issues, there are too many issues to list in that building. That whole building needs to be destroyed. They had a play over there right before Christmas. I was just praying those bleachers held everybody up, as many people as was going to be there.”
King stressed that he did not know for a fact the bleachers are not safe.
“I am not saying they are unsafe. I am just saying they 60-plus years old, at least. We have had a four-inch water main bust three times in one year. So it is not dry under there and it will never be dry under there. We have already had mildew issues and moisture issues in that fifth and sixth grade building,” King continued.
He also said the fifth and sixth grade building at the elementary school is beyond repair.
“The water has pooled against the back wall on the outside for so long, for so many years, that it has eat the mortar out of the bricks. The building is beyond repair and needs to go,” King recommended.
He also said the proposed new multi-purpose building at the elementary school could include a hallway to allow students to access the band hall and science lab so the kids will be out of the weather.
“What we need to do is, we need to get our stuff boiled down, talk to people around the community to see what other ideas they may have,” Board chairman Pierce Epes recommended after the discussion. “Then get an architect to give us some quick estimates on the cost of what we can do for our different price points for what our bonded capacity would be,” Epes continued.
“I honestly believe if we could look more modern, more up-to-date, a lot of these people who are moving out of Lafayette and Oxford would come here if we didn’t look like 1960. I think we would grow,” King stated.
I completely agree, I think that would sure help,” Epes said.