Jackson County residents divided over $67 million school improvement bond

Supporters say it will greatly improve the district’s schools, while others worry about the allocation of the funds.
Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 8:02 AM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents who live in the Jackson County School District are heading to the polls in less than two weeks to vote whether or not to pass a $67 million school bond.

Opinions as to whether the bond should be passed fall on both side of the lines. Supporters say it will greatly improve schools in Vancleave, East Central and St. Martin. However, many say the allocation of funding doesn’t go where it is needed the most.

The 20-year-bond project would cover various repairs and upgrades throughout the district, including several new construction projects. Those projects include new performing arts centers at East Central High and St. Martin High, a new multipurpose gym at St. Martin High, and a new gym/multipurpose center at Vancleave High.

Hurley resident Jimmy Smith thinks having those facilities is a good thing for the district and will help bring in more money.

“Athletics bring in money for the school, brings in students. It’s attractive to people looking at our school district to possibly move to,” said Smith. “The better those facilities are, the greater opportunity it is to have greater growth in our school district.”

READ MORE: Jackson Co. School District lays out plans for proposed $67 million bond project

Opponents of the bills agree that extracurricular facilities are important, but they say academics is more important. Vancleave resident Amy Peterson thinks the bond should focus more on setting students and educators up for success.

“I’m not in favor of the consolidation for Vancleave Upper and Vancleave Lower, and I’m not in favor of the athletic facilities over classrooms,” said Peterson. “St. Martin North, St. Martin East, East Central Upper, they all need (class)rooms.”

Peterson also worries that combining the two elementary schools in Vancleave could cause students to get lost in the larger population and hurt students academically.

“It’s moving 600 children into a building that already has 500, and that’s going to put a K-5 school with 1,100 children,” said Peterson. “We don’t have any other elementary school in our district that’s that large.”

The bond proposes adding a 24 classroom addition to Vancleave Lower Elementary. Smith believes those classrooms will continue to receive improvements outside of funding from the bond.

“Smaller needs, such as classrooms, for example, are things I understand the budget already has in it to help on an ongoing basis to meet those needs,” said Smith.

Classroom and cafeteria expansions would also be done at some of the schools.

If the proposed bond is approved, property taxes could increase between $6 and $8 per every $1,000, meaning if you own a home with a tax assessed (10%) value of $150,000, you could see an increase in your annual property taxes between $90 and $120, according to Jackson County School District Superintendent, Dr. John Strycker.

To read the draft plan that details how and where the money will be spent, click here.

A special election for the $67 million bond will take place on May 18.

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