VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - An A-rated school district deserves A-rated facilities.
That was the message delivered by John Stryker, the new Jackson County School superintendent at this week’s board meeting.
Now facilities are adequate but not what he thinks they should be.
At Vancleave Upper Elementary School, for example, you can find construction plaques ranging from 1969 to 2019 at different parts of the campus.
The district now spends about $2 million a year maintaining 13 campuses to their current level. The district now has about 10,000 students.
“Beyond the data, you have to go out and see physically, and that is how well have the facilities been maintained," Stricker said in an interview on Wednesday. “And we’re very fortunate here in Jackson County that the facilities have been well maintained and that’s why we have a lot of older facilities.
“Facilities are expensive, and really for $2 million, it doesn’t go as far as what people might think. For example, a new elementary would be $15 to $20 million, a new secondary building could be $30-$40-$50 million.”
That is why Stryker said he plans to ask the school board to consider a different approach.
“In looking at the facility plan that was in place before I got here, it is obvious to me that we need to at least consider alternative funding, and one example would be a bond,” he said.
His plan would involve taking a long, hard look at what the district needs now and what it will need in the future. That includes taking a close look at growth patterns in the county so they can properly anticipate future needs at the schools. It would also include getting community feedback, something he has already been getting.
“We’re an A school system right now, so the community is coming to me and saying 'Hey, what are the best facilities we can afford for our students, and I’m very impressed with that," Stryker said.
That is making his job a little bit easier.
“Where usually you have to sell facility improvements to the community, this community is coming to me and saying we expect the best for our students and so I’m very blessed," he said.