Biloxi Jr. High School is home to about 400-ninth graders. Educators say many of them may not graduate.
"Ninth grade is a big year across the U.S. and seems to be the year where you have a lot of kids that are either over age and begin to look at dropping out," said Biloxi School Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale.
Biloxi school leaders are looking at ways to keep ninth graders interested in school. So they're considering moving the ninth graders to the Biloxi High School campus across the Bay. The high school principal thinks it's a great idea.
"I do support it," said Pam Manners. "We offer more courses than they're able to offer at the Junior High. We have over 150 courses, and I think students who come up here may be more inclined to stay in school if they have more choices."
The choices include more extra-curricular activities and a GED program. And since ninth graders earn graduation credits, educators believe it's important to encourage them to start thinking seriously about college or a career.
"Your high school experience really begins in ninth grade," Tisdale said. "I think they would have a more rounded, comprehensive high school experience."
Right now, there's not enough room at the high school to house hundreds of ninth graders. So the school board is asking the superintendent to work with an architect to design an addition that would go up on the west side of the front academic wing.
"We're looking at probably give or take a few classrooms, about 30 classrooms," Tisdale said. "We will probably need some additional office space, of course, restrooms and storage."
When asked if the changes will get kids interested in staying in school, Manners said "I hope so. I definitely would love to give it a try. I think they would meld very well with the rest of the student body."
The superintendent says once the design is finished, he will present it to the Biloxi School Board. It will be up to the board to decide whether to move ahead with the project.