Will Harrison County voters say yes to new schools?

Will Harrison County voters say yes to new schools?
Harrison County’s school board wants voters to ratify a $55 million bond.

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County’s school board wants voters to ratify a $55 million bond.

WLOX News Now has confirmed a referendum will be placed on Harrison County ballots in November. It asks voters to approve funding for new school construction and school renovations. A spokesperson for Harrison County schools says specifics about what will be in that referendum will be released at a Tuesday news conference.

The Harrison County Circuit Clerk’s office released a sample ballot for the November 6 general election, which includes the exact wording for the school bond referendum. It says a K-8 school would be built on the east side of the district and a new middle school on the west side of the district. The referendum also includes renovations and enhancements to security and safety.

At an August 6 school board meeting recorded by Keith Wilson/STREETCAR PR, Superintendent Roy Gill talked about the school bond and why it’s necessary.

Gill noted that based on current projections, the bond will not require a tax increase. That the overloading of D’Iberville Elementary, D’Iberville Middle, North Woolmarket and Woolmarket made expansion on the east side of the school district necessary. He also talked about a new West Harrison Middle School somewhere near County Farm Road. “That new middle school would feed directly to West Harrison High School to where they would all go to high school there,” Gill told board members.

The board voted 4-1 to endorse the referendum.

Gill said the new West Harrison school would alleviate overcrowding concerns at North Gulfport 7th and 8th and West Wortham Middle School. If voters go along with the bond vote, Gill said North Gulfport would send 450 students to the new school and West Wortham would send 200 students.

The superintendent said he’s been pushing this plan for over a year, but the August 6 school board meeting was the first time all five board members discussed it in public.

That didn’t sit well with Dr. Barbara Thomas. She was the lone vote against the referendum. “The community needs input,” she told Gill and other board members at the meeting.

Additionally, Gill said referendum plans included turning North Gulfport Middle School into a kindergarten through eighth grade campus. However, while speaking to Dr. Thomas, the superintendent noted, “That’s still up in the air, because you said something about you didn’t know if people wanted that or not.”

Thomas responded, “I have been privy to that information, that’s not what a majority of the community wants.”

Nineteen days later, Gill met with the North Gulfport Civic Club to share his vision. He vowed to meet with other groups between now and the November 6 school bond referendum vote. “We have to get the word out,” he declared.

The school bond referendum needs 60% support to pass. The referendum will be on ballots in 23 Harrison County precincts because only voters who live within the Harrison County School District will participate in the referendum.

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