The Simpson County School District will proceed with high school consolidation. Details of a bond issue to fund the project have been presented over YouTube video as well as on the school district website.
This decision to build a consolidated high school comes despite what was most recently reported in the newspaper and over the objection of at least one board member, Stacey Herring. Herring recounted the issue as the newspaper reported, that she believed the board had agreed only to continue to pursue looking into the consolidation of the high schools in the county and that they had not agreed definitely to begin the project.
The minutes of the meeting, however, reflected that consolidation was approved, rather than continuing to look into options for consolidation. The board voted and approved the minutes and it was not discussed until later in the meeting. However, at the passage of the minutes, Board Chairman Danny Cowart expressed his pleasure at the passage of the minutes without discussion.
Superintendent Dr. Toriano Holloway is now giving details of the proposed consolidation plan to the community in the first public discussion of the project that has provided any detail.
The video on the school district website says that consolidation of Magee and Mendenhall High Schools was voted on and approved by the board “earlier in this academic year.” The decision came after a three year facilities study that was completed for the board by Bailey Consulting of Jackson.
Holloway promotes consolidation as “a generational opportunity to have a profound impact on Simpson County School System.”
Holloway projects the total cost of the consolidation proposal to be $61 million.
The site has not been made public. However, at a Simpson County Development Foundation meeting in the fall, Cowart announced that the new high school would be on Highway 49 between Co-Lin and Mendenhall.
Following that meeting it was reported that the property being discussed had been sold and was no longer an option to the district. Plans now include a special election for the bond issue slated for the end of March. However, the district still has not identified a site and has issued very few details other that those reported in the newspaper and discussed in public forums.
Until the recent announcement of a decision, all discussions of the project have been in executive session during school board meetings under the guise of discussion of land acquisition.
Apparently, a great many details have not been made public up to this point because the estimated project cost is now $61 million. Holloway stated that $39 million would be used for the construction of the four-year, state-of-the-art quality high school facility. It was not specified but that would leave $22 million, which would include athletic facilities for football, baseball and other programs. According to Holloway, the cost would be funded by district funds and not through bond proceeds.
However, if voters fail to pass the bond issue, the district will build a new high school, and athletics will be conducted at the existing Magee and Mendenhall facilities.
Holloway concluded the video message by saying that the community would be updated through public meetings for input and through the school district web-site.