Harrison Co. breaks ground on new elementary school - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison Co. breaks ground on new elementary school

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HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

It is a move to relieve overcrowded classrooms and accommodate a population boom. On Wednesday, the Harrison County School District held a ground breaking ceremony for a new elementary school.

Harrison County school leaders called it an exciting day in the district's history. River Oaks Elementary School will be big and built to handle an expected jump in enrollment.

The trees are gone and the site work has started. The 25 acre property on Three Rivers Road will be home to Harrison County's new K-sixth grade school.

"I said a few years ago that we would never have to build another building for ten years. Before I could get out of sight, I was talking about it and redoing it," said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge.

About 50 people gathered to break ground on the new River Oaks Elementary School. The campus will stretch from the water tower to Lampkin Road.

"With the growth in our school district, this is an exciting project for us," said John Johnson, Harrison County School Board President.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the school district has been dealing with a spike in enrollment and overcrowded classrooms. This year alone, schools in Harrison County gained between 400-500 additional students.

"Which is good and we just decided that looking at our growth and did these forecasts, we knew that we had to build another school somewhere," said Johnson.

That growth is just the beginning. Construction on the new school won't start until the first week of January and already, land is being cleared across the street for a new subdivision.

"This would be a guess somewhere around 1,500 homes in the immediate area in the next few years," said Arledge.

The 75,000 square foot building will have 35 classrooms and can accommodate up to 900 students. River Oaks Elementary should open in August of 2014. It should take the pressure off of packed schools, mainly in the Orange Grove and Woolmarket areas.

"With fewer students in the classroom, that means the students will get more individual attention. And that way, hopefully, it will improve student achievement," said Johnson.  "Student achievement always drives our decisions as a school, and that's what it's all about."

River Oaks will be the 22nd school in Harrison County. Here's another interesting note. The school district bought the property from a graduate of Harrison Central High School.

The entire project will cost about $12.4 million. The district took out two, interest-free "School Construction Zone" loans to fund it.

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