Leetown site of new school

Published 6:28 pm Thursday, May 24, 2007

A new school in the northern part of Hancock County will possibly have 100 students previously attending Picayune schools, attending a shiny new Hancock elementary school.

Tuesday at the county’s school board meeting a $32 million bid to build two new schools was approved, one for the south end of the county and another for the north end of the county, said Hancock County School District Superintendent David Kopf.

The new school on the north end, to be called West Hancock Elementary, will be capable of housing about 750 students in grades Kindergarten through fifth.

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When the school is completed there is a possibility that about 100 Hancock county students currently attending Picayune schools will attend West Hancock Elementary in Leetown.

“That’s if their board agrees,” said Hancock County School District Assistant Superintendent Donnie Gholston.

If that change goes off without a hitch those students would stay in the Hancock school system, Kopf said.

Construction of the new school should begin sometime in June, but there is a problem that could push construction back even farther for the West Hancock Elementary. During the environmental assessment a shell bed was found. While the most likely explanation for the shell bed would be an old county road, there is the possibility it is the remnants of a historical American Indian presence in the area, Kopf said. If it was determined to be remnants of an old Indian presence, then the school would have to go through a long process before construction would begin.

“Obviously it would delay the process, that’s always a concern,” Kopf said.

Although 40 to 50 years ago it was common for the county to use shell to build roads, Gholston said.

Less than half of the $32 million bid will be used to build West Hancock Elementary, since more than half of that money will be used to build the elementary school on the south end. The two schools will be identical, but it will cost more to build the school on the south end due to Federal Emergency Management Agency height regulations, Gholston said.

Only about 40 acres will be cleared from the 640 acres of 16 section land proposed as the new site for West Hancock Elementary. On that 40 acres, between 15 and 20 acres will be used for the school, Gholston said.

After construction begins it will take about 400 days to complete, Kopf said.