GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - One group is stepping up its grassroots campaign to promote a $41 million bond issue in Gulfport. On Monday, the Committee for Excellence in Education opened its new headquarters on Washington Avenue. Volunteers will staff the office to address questions and concerns about the referendum to build a new Gulfport High School.
"Frankly, this is 1960s architecture in an era of brand new schools," commented Bryan Caldwell.
In his eyes, Gulfport High doesn't have much curb appeal, especially for families moving to the coast.
"When they drive by Gulfport High School and compare it to some of the other new schools on the coast, we're losing the drive-by contest," he said.
Caldwell is co-chairman of the Excellence in Education Committee. The group is posting yard signs, attending club gatherings, and scheduling town hall meetings in hopes of persuading voters to support a $41.2 million bond issue to build a new Gulfport High.
"It's a school that's nearly 50 years old. It's outdated and our children in Gulfport deserve better than this," said Caldwell.
The updated campus would feature three academic buildings with larger, more functional classrooms, extra labs, and equipped to meet technology needs.
Safety is another selling point. Right now, there are more than 70 access points to the campus. The new design would reduce that to four secured entrances. The main entrance would face Courthouse Road instead of Perry Street, and all administrative offices would be placed in one location.
"You don't have to search for attendance or search for the main office or figure out where the guidance office is, so to make it more efficient for parents also," said Gulfport High Principal Mike Lindsey. "The added security of having the enclosed campus is always a positive of course, just overall a better design of a facility."
If the bond issue passes, it would cost the average taxpayer an extra $50 a year.
"I understand, none of us, I think, are wild about having to pay additional taxes. But I think this is more than a tax increase. It's an investment in our most valuable commodity and that's our children," said Caldwell.
"We've done well academically here at Gulfport High School and we want to have the outside of the building and the facilities to be on par with the academics that's going on in the building," said Lindsey.
The bond issue would also provide funds for additional classrooms and upgrades at five other campuses in the Gulfport School District. The special election is May 27.