New elementary school could be going up in Harrison County - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

New elementary school could be going up in Harrison County

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HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

At least four schools in Harrison County are so overcrowded, the district is now looking for land to build a new elementary school. Since Hurricane Katrina, the district has gained between 300 to 400 students a year.

West Wortham Elementary and Middle School is bursting at the seams. The school has grown by about 300 students over the last six years. That's why the Harrison County School District is spending $1.3 million to add 16 more classrooms.

"The issue is we have 14 portable classrooms there now," said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge. "I have a concern for safety for children in portable classrooms, you know, in tornadoes and stuff like that. So I'm trying to address the most needed areas first."

Three other schools in the district are also dealing with overloaded classrooms: Three Rivers Elementary, North Woolmarket Elementary/Middle School and D'Iberville Elementary.

Arledge said he believes the rise in enrollment is caused by more housing going up in the county and more people moving north.

"Where you have water and sewer, that's the development areas that are developing the fastest now," said Arledge.

The district is trying to keep up with the growth, which Arledge said can be unpredictable.

"We have to do something immediately because if you don't, in another year, year and a half, we're going to be in real trouble. We'll have portable classrooms everywhere or we're going to have to move some students or something," Arledge added.

Adding classrooms may not be enough. So the district is planning to take out a $10 million interest free School Construction Zone Bond to fund a brand new elementary school.

"I'm looking at sites for a new elementary school," said Arledge. "There are a lot of issues you have to address trying to find the right piece of property. It's very difficult in this school district to find property that's available for lease that's in an appropriate area."

Arledge said a new school could take about two years to build. In the meantime, the extra classrooms will help ease some of the growing pains. The 16 additional classrooms at West Wortham should be finished by this Summer.

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