Feasibility study plans okayed

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One step in the involved process of upgrades to school district facilities here gained approval Monday evening with acceptance by the school board of long term feasibility study plans.

The study was prepared to look at future educational needs of the Poplarville school district, including facilities. The board earlier in the year approved hiring an architectural educational planner for that purpose.

The result was the study presented to the general public several weeks ago. The board said the feasibility study had received support of the 30-40 area residents who attended that meeting.

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At the top of the study plan agenda prepared by the Bailey Educational Group was construction of a new lower elementary school facility, Superintendent Carl Merritt said. The school board has noted on several occasions that growth in the area and the age of the current facility were pointing toward the need for a new facility.

“The lower elementary has become the priority,” Merritt said. “What we’re going to do (now) is follow through. We’re going to set up meetings and seek input.”

“I committed to this a year and a half ago when I came in as a new superintendent.”

The next step will be a planning stage based on the feasibility recommendations, with the goal of preparing a bond issue to fund proposed construction.

Merritt could not give any timetable for the process because discussions with the Bailey Group about the next step have not been held. He said it may be six months or more before any figures or dates for a bond issue to fund construction could be determined.

“It all is going to depend on a lot of timing factors in the planning stage….” Merritt said.

In another matter, the school board approved a revised graduation site policy.

The former policy had come under scrutiny following last May’s graduation when inclement weather forced ceremonies to be held in the high school gymnasium, limiting seating for visitors.

Merritt said the revised policy went back to the plan used in 2006 following the disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina, which struck Aug. 29, 2005.

At that time Merritt said the graduating class was given the option of having ceremonies at an out of town location because of damage to the schools and to Pearl River Community College. He said the class unanimously voted to keep ceremonies local at the college football field but that the back up plan had still been the high school gymnasium.

What is proposed for next year is to return to what was done in 2006 — give the class the option of an off-site, out of city location “if available,” if that is what the class wants, Merritt said. Any decision would then be passed to the school board for consideration.

“Basically, we’re giving some ownership (of graduation site decisions) to the class,” he said.

The only difficulty with using an out-of-town location is in having to reserve the site in August the year before. Merritt said the area is still feeling the effects from Katrina and sites large enough for a graduation are booked well in advance.

He said site plans for graduation have to be made in August because graduation dates are determined in advance at the state level.

In other matters, the board:

— Adopted the original 2008-’09 budget.

— Approved school handbooks.

— Approved the district insurance policy, noting that there had been a slight increase in cost of insurance because the value of school property had gone up.

— Recognized two guests, Trent Pittman and Lee Mason, both teachers within the school system who were at the meeting because of college course requirements. Both are taking advanced classes in school administration.

The next scheduled meeting is Aug. 11.