Lopez Elem. to house more than alternative school students

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Moving trucks loaded with furniture, computers, and teaching materials pulled into the Lopez campus Friday morning. The supplies came from the former Alternative School at Fernwood.

Custodians are hauling the equipment and boxes to the right classrooms and offices. They are busy trying to covert Lopez Elementary into a new home for the alternative school in Biloxi.

"A lot of work. We're trying to clean up and shuffle things to and from," said Principal Alice Duggan.

The work includes a fresh coat of paint and redoing the floors and ceilings in some areas.

"This is John Hewey's classroom. I know he's going to be happy to see this," said custodian Bobby Lewis, as he unloaded a bunch of boxes in a classroom.

What a change for the staff and students who have waited a long time to move out of their old, leaky, rundown building.

"We're excited to be in a newer building with a playground and a basketball court and the Imagination Station, along with a computer lab," said Duggan.

Duggan has already started unpacking her boxes.  She is certainly enjoying her new surroundings.

"I love it! I love it!" she said. "It has nice floors, ceiling, a nice office. The entire school's nice."

Biloxi School District leaders voted to re-purpose Lopez earlier this year, despite emotional pleas and threats of lawsuits from some parents and neighbors.

However, Lopez will house more than just the Alternative School Program.  For instance, this summer, children from the city of Biloxi's recreation program are using the facility.  Later in June, the campus will host summer school classes for Special Education students.  And in the fall, part of the building will be used for the school district's new Excel by 5 preschool program.

"We hope to add, perhaps, a community education program, as well as adult education," said Dr. David Spinks, Student Services Director for the Biloxi School District. "We have a lot of room available here. It'll be a multi-purpose facility."

Now that the school has a new purpose, its name will also change from Lopez Elementary to Lopez School.

"It's going to be a new beginning and it's a positive change," said Duggan. "It's something that's been needed for our Biloxi students."

Lopez Elementary students will be relocated to either Gorenflo Elementary or Jeff Davis Elementary School.  As for the old Fernwood campus, consultants are trying to determine the best use of the property.

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