Public schools look at options for facilities


A facilities use plan commissioned by the Simpson County School Board offers a third party view of some of the options for the public schools’ physical plants and future needs. 

The options come with  hefty price tags that range from $30 million to $70 million.  However, another option pointed out was to do nothing about facilities. 

Bailey Consulting Group of Jackson conducted the needs assessment of school facilities at a cost to the county of approximately $20,000. 

According to the evaluation, Mendenhall Middle School will require the most work.  Even if the work is done, the assessment showed that the area is low lying and proper drainage is not available.  The next worse  physical facility is Magee Middle School, followed by Simpson Central. 

A draft plan was presented to the board last Thursday night.  Now in its earliest stages, the plan will involve several more steps.

One of those steps is community involvement with public meetings planned for October 17, at 6 p.m. at Mendenhall High School Gym,  October 22 at 6 p.m. at the Magee High School  Gym and October 24 at Simpson Central Gym at 6 p.m. 

After the community is given a chance to offer  input, the board will reconvene to offer other direction. 

Three options were presented to the board for consideration.

The first is to leave campuses as they are and allow them to continue to function as they have been. This option does, however, include repairing all buildings and renovating them to create a safe and pleasing environment. 

To bring the existing buildings up to standard would cost the school district $30 million. 

The second option was to build a consolidated high school to replace Magee High School and Mendenhall High School.   Construction of such a facility was estimated to cost $40 million dollars,  not including athletic facilities. Students would be bused to the existing athletic fields at Magee and Mendenhall high schools and continue to use fields and facilities already existing. Renovating existing facilities would also require an additional $30 million. 

This option would probably be excluded, however, because of overall cost and the limited bonding power of the  school district.  Bailey suggested that the county is restricted by their bonding amount,which he stated was $30 to $31 million.

The third option offered by Bailey Consulting Group was that the school district re-align existing facilities and their purpose.  Magee Elementary and Mendenhall Elementary, which now include kindergarten through fifth grades,  would add sixth grade.  Magee Elementary School’s  existing campus.  The seventh and eighth grade which now adjoins the high school, would be made smaller by tearing down its gym and cafeteria, which are a distance away from MMS.  New buildings would be built closer to the high school to consolidate the campus.  A cafetorium would be built to meet the needs of both the high school and middle school students. 

At Mendenhall Elementary the building that housed Head Start would be renovated to provide space for adding sixth grade.  The front entry for the building would be moved to provide better security as would be done for Magee Elementary.  

The seventh and eight grades would move to the high school campus in both municipalities.  

The board gave the nod to moving forward with the planned meetings to get the community involved in the process. 

It was stated that the improvements being made at Mendenhall for new athletic fields would still be needed no matter which option the board approves.  The bid by Barnard and Sons Construction of $1,438,000 was also approved for the new field house at Magee High School.  Those facilities would continue to be used in the event that a consolidated high school would be build in the future.