Hancock County Set To Break Ground On Two New Schools

"This is a weed. This is a tulip. Don't pull that up, okay?" Jeanne Brooks told her students on Monday, as they prepared to weed a garden.

Every student had a hand in planting the tulips at the combined Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary campus, located behind Hancock Middle School. Since they lost their buildings to Katrina, the children wanted to make their temporary trailers bloom with beauty.

"The kids have a place to play," Brooks said. "They notice what's growing. They have a part in planting it. They have a part in watching it grow. It makes it their own."

Starting this summer, the students can watching something else sprout from the ground in Hancock County. The district is building the new "South Hancock Elementary" for the Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy students and staff.

"Due to the population shift, we did not have enough population return to the Pearlington community to go ahead and build in that particular area," said David Kopf, Hancock County Superintendent.

"We decided to consolidate on the south end. We have been very blessed. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We've made a lot of progress."

The new school will go up on the old Gulfview Elementary property. However, the building will move further north and on higher ground. The superintendent says the new school will serve as a symbol of pride and unity for the Lakeshore and Pearlington communities.

"We're going to have a school that will be state-of-the-art, something the community will be very proud of for our students," Kopf said. "I'm sure the children are going to feel that same kind of excitement. They're going to be elated. Everything is going to be new."

The students and teachers are just as eager to move into their new home. The tulips they planted will likely go with them.

"A lot of things were dumped on top of them, good things and bad things. Yet through all of that, they manage to come up through that dirt," Brooks said. "The promise is they'll be back again and that's the way we want to look at it. We want to come back, no matter what's been dumped on top of us."

For now, the school off Highway 43 is called "West Elementary School." Each school will cost about $15 million. Funding comes from FEMA and insurance. If construction starts in June, both schools could be ready to open for the 2008 school year.