Fernwood teachers, students excited about moving to Lopez

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The paint is cracked and peeling off the walls. Overhead, there are gaping holes in the ceiling tiles, along with exposed insulation. That's the condition of one of the classrooms at the Biloxi Alternative School at Fernwood on Pass Road.

"On a rainy day, it rains in the classrooms. We have to place garbage cans to catch the water, which in turn makes it very musty and smells," Principal Dr. Alice Duggan said.

Too many leaks forced the school to close an old art room. Vandals broke a bunch of windows in the cafeteria, and strange critters have been spotted on campus, including raccoons. The school was built in the late 1920s, with several buildings added in the 40s and 50s. Some buildings have already been torn down because they were in such bad shape.

"The building is in poor condition and I think it's time for us to move on," said English Teacher Patrick Wadsworth.

This summer, the students and teachers will move into a new home -- the Lopez Elementary school building in east Biloxi.

"We were very excited," said Duggan. "First thing I thought of was seeing the little ones on a playground, actually being able to swing and have a place in which they can play. And for the older ones to actually have a basketball court in which they can get out and release their energy."

"Happy. Very happy," said ten-year-old Jordaan Tillman. "Because we get a chance to get a new library, new computer lab, library, gym."

And the students will actually have a working cafeteria that serves hot meals, instead of having food delivered from other schools.

The students who attend the Alternative School, also known as The Center for New Opportunities, have behavioral problems and don't succeed in traditional classrooms. Teachers believe having a cleaner, safer environment will make a big difference in their education.

"Moving to the new building will actually give them more opportunities," said Duggan. "They'll have an Imagination Station. They'll have all the things the other students have in the school district."

"They will feel like more people care about them and their situation, and they'll react better," said Wadsworth. "Yeah, we're anxious to get over there."