New Harrison County Schools Designed With Own Water, Sewer, Power Systems

"You see the building is located here. We have a drive around it," said Harrison County Superintendent Henry Arledge, as he pointed to designs for two new, more modern high schools in his district.

D'Iberville High will go up on Lamey Bridge Road, and the West Harrison County school will be built on County Farm Road.

"Both buildings will be two-stories," Arledge said. "What we're trying to do is use the same plans for both schools and changing cosmetically the outside front of each one of them a little bit."

Arledge says for years, the district has been considering building another high school. Hurricane Katrina, and the resulting population boom, speeded up those plans.

"The growth is coming back in our district," Arledge said. "A lot of subdivisions are on line to be built, and if all that goes through, then we're definitely going to have growth. The west Harrison County school could accommodate about 1,100 students. The D'Iberville site should be able to accommodate about 1,300 students. So we hope that both of them will help with growth in the future."

The schools come equipped with surveillance cameras, computers and all the latest technology - features you would expect from a new high school. But what makes these schools different is they can instantly transform from learning centers into self-contained storm shelters.

"Most of the schools in the three coastal counties are not hurricane shelters," Arledge said. "They are not built to the standards number one, with concrete roofs and concrete floors. In the event of a hurricane, once these schools are built, they should be able to withstand winds of up to 200 mph. Each school will have its own sewage treatment facility and its own water well and all of that will be hooked to a generator. It will be a livable place, but it will not be a hotel room."

Arledge says the schools will be the answer for stronger, safer shelters, and fill the need for more space to house students.

"I said in the past sometime that we wouldn't have to build another school for 10 years, but you never know what you're going to have to do. It changes as the population changes and grows," Arledge said.

D'Iberville High is scheduled to open in January, 2009.  The West Harrison County school will open six months later.

Both schools will cost about $78 million, but that amount doesn't include athletic fields or extra parking. The bulk of the funding comes from FEMA, MEMA, and the school district. About $20 million will come from a property tax increase that was approved by the school board.