Plans Unveiled For New St. Martin High School

District leaders and community members are one step closer to building a new St. Martin High School. January 2009 is the tentative date students and faculty have to look forward to moving into the new St. Martin School.

The school will be 158,000 square feet. It's an ambitious date that leaders know will take a lot of planning and hard work.

Plans for the new school come after Hurricane Katrina destroyed St. Martin Middle and St. Martin Upper Elementary Schools, leaving hundreds of students without a place to learn.

"We presently house children in 91 portable classrooms in our school district. We had zero portable classrooms prior to Hurricane Katrina. It's extremely important that we move forward and get children out of the portables," Jackson County School Superintendent Rucks Robinson said.

The new St. Martin High School will offer dozens of classrooms with the student to teacher ratio at 16 to 1. Leaders say the plans are based on about 1,000 students but will take growth into consideration, leaving room for almost 500 more students.

But how much will the school cost? That's a question architects can't answer until other schools are built along the Coast.

"At that point, we are going to have a good idea of what construction costs are doing in South Mississippi on a hard bid public school project, which hasn't been done in a long time. So it will give us a good tale of the tape of what the construction market is doing," architect David Hardy said.

The old St. Martin School won't go un-touched. In September, the board voted to eventually move the middle school students into the old high school and the upper elementary students into the middle school.

Leaders say funding for the school construction will primarily come from FEMA and MEMA funds and from insurance money from the two schools that were lost in the storm.

The school will undergo a process called "hardening of the structure." That means the new St. Martin High School will be built to shelter standards; meaning it will be self-sustainable.