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Natchez aldermen approve land transfer for new high school
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 24, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Plans to build a new Natchez High School near its current campus cleared another hurdle Monday with aldermen voting to transfer 37 acres of city-owned land to the school system.

The Board of Aldermen voted 5-1 to give the land to the Natchez-Adams School District. School. The decision came after a hearing in the City Council Chambers packed with people for and against the land transfer.

NASD officials are planning a school estimated to cost about $23 million to build. It’s to replace the current high school that was built in 1961. It’s considered outdated and in need of millions of dollars for renovations.

With the Board of Aldermen’s vote of approval Monday, the school board can now accelerate plans to build the high school, said Natchez-Adams school board member Phillip West. He said it would take about two years to build once a contractor is hired and construction begins.

The school district is getting land known as the “bean field” by NHS on Seargent Prentiss Drive, which the state ceded over to Natchez in 2015 for educational or recreational purposes.

The aldermen’s decision to let the new high school occupy the property comes five months after Natchez-Adams County voters rejected the school board’s plan to build the facility and renovate other schools for a total cost of about $45 million. Much of the revenues was to come from a property tax increase, but voters turned that down 3,142 to 3,004.

However, after the May referendum, the school board moved forward anyway with a downsized plan to build just the high school with alternative financial sources for the $23 million needed for construction.

The majority of votes to quell the construction tax plans came from the county’s mostly white precincts, according to the referendum results. About 90 percent of the Natchez-Adams school system’s nearly 3,500 students are black, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. Most white residents in the Natchez-Adams School District send their children to private schools but still pay public school taxes.

The school-building debate has divided the community along racial lines, as evidenced by the 13 people who addressed the mayor and aldermen at Monday’s public hearing. Blacks spoke up in support of the land transfer. Whites expressed qualms about the school board’s multimillion-dollar plan to replace the 56-year-old high school building.

The city board’s 5-1 vote for the land being used for the new high school had Alderman Sarah Carter Smith the lone dissenter. Voting for it were Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Billie Joe Frazier, Felicia Irving, Ben Davis and Dan Dillard.

“We need to work together to get this ball rolling,” Frazier said. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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