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Natchez-Adams school construction plans unveiled to city, county boards
from Staff Reports - NEWS
January 9, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Plans for building a new Natchez High School, renovating other facilities and closing two schools are far from being finalized as local boards continue working on a variety of construction options and funding mechanisms.

“The plan is not carved in stone. …We’ve got a long way to go,” said Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Fred Butcher.
He and the school board presented preliminary proposals Friday to Adams County supervisors, Natchez aldermen, Mayor Darryl Grennell and the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission.

As currently envisioned in phases, projected construction costs total about $44 million. Most of that -- $40 million -- is to build a new high school and renovate the existing 56-year-old NHS campus on Seargent Prentiss Drive.

All Natchez-Adams school buildings are more than 50 years old. Two schools – Frazier and Lewis – are considered structurally unsound and should be abandoned, according to school officials.

Butcher said the worn-out conditions of the nine schools are a deterrent to hiring and retaining good teachers to help improve the education of the 3,000 NASD students. Their poor performance on Mississippi assessment tests has resulted in the Natchez-Adams school system making an ‘F’ on its 2016 report card from the state Department of Education.

Butcher – who’s been school superintendent since April – said NASD officials will be seeking public input and holding community meetings about the construction plans in the coming months to ensure people are informed about the schools’ needs. Funding and new construction will move forward, he said, “if the public so desires.”

He noted school construction would be scaled down if funding sources – such as a bond issue or special tax millage – don’t fully materialize. “We don’t know what we can afford,” Butcher said.

The school-construction proposal could be placed on a referendum ballot for Natchez-Adams County voters to decide whether to implement it.

The four boards on Friday also discussed the potential uses of the 37 vacant acres adjacent to the high school. Concerns have been expressed about the city-owned “bean field” being occupied by the new NHS rather than a recreation complex, as envisioned for years by city and county officials. Some board members said Friday the acreage could be able to accommodate both.

Meanwhile, nearby ballfields have already been leveled out and plans are underway to build a pool and basketball courts for a new recreation complex at Liberty Park. However, the expense of this is running more than planned.

The lowest bid to build the eight-lane pool and related structures is about $700,000 above the budgeted $1 million, said Recreation Commission Chairman Tate Hobdy.

While the projected expense has been pared to $1.4 million, he said, the commission will either seek new bids or get the Adams County Board of Supervisors and Natchez Board of Aldermen to provide more money.

The dirtwork recently completed for the two playing fields was nearly $30,000 above what the original contract called for.

The boards in 2015 signed an agreement to combine funds to jointly operate a community recreation program run by the Jackson-based YMCA. A groundbreaking ceremony for the recreation complex was held last April with ambitious hopes the pool would be open for summer.

 




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