PRC School Board holds workshop to discuss bond issue

Published 8:01 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The School Board for the Pearl River County School District met for a workshop Tuesday evening to discuss reopening the bond issue for a new school building in the county.

District Superintendent Dennis Penton told the board there were four main concerns of citizens from the previous bond issue that had been addressed.

“Citizens were concerned about out of district students, Louisiana and other out-of-state car tags and the location we had chosen in the Salem area. They felt the Salem area was not centrally located enough. They also expressed concern that we need a high school more than we need an elementary school,” Penton said.

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Penton said the school has seen a sharp reduction in the number of out-of-state car tags on campus since instituting a program that allows campus security to issue tickets to cars with the out-of-state tags.

“I don’t know if they’ve bought their Mississippi tags or if they’re just borrowing vehicles to bring their kids to school, but the numbers have gone down,” Penton said.

Penton also said a change in board policy regarding out of district students seemed to be having the desired effect in lowering the number of out of district students.

Penton said to solve the location problem, instead of placing a new school in the Salem area, the district could place a new school on 16th section land near the school’s baseball complex.

“We have 200 acres of 16th section land across Interstate 59 from our baseball complex that is good high ground with plenty of room to put a new school building,” Penton said.

To address the need for a high school, Penton proposed building a modified elementary school that would allow room for expansion into a high school in the future.

“If current financial trends and rate of growth were to continue at the current pattern, we could conceivably be able to convert to a high school in 10 to 15 years. If we wait, at constant finances, we may never reach the threshold to build a new high school,” Penton said.

Penton said building a new high school from the ground up would cost more than $36 million, while the two phase project would allow the district to spend $21 million right now for the new building and make the additions in the future for the remaining $14 million.

“We’d be building this part at today’s construction costs… We also will never have bond capabilities for a $36 million project, now or in the future,” Penton said. “We’re using a two-phase project to get to the same point.”

Board member Michelle Boyd said the plan sounds like a good, solid plan.

“This is a way for us to get a high school down the road,” Boyd said.

The board agreed to start holding several public meetings to allow for public discussion on both the new proposal as well as the original plans. The first meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 27, at at the high school cafeteria.