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Jackson County school officials not giving up on school bond issue

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - The crushing defeat at the ballot box for the $67 million Jackson County School District bond issue has officials trying to figure out what went wrong.

Because the district will be back on the ballot at some point, officials know they have to get it right to get it through.

The defeat left Jackson County School Superintendent John Stryker frustrated and confused.

“When I ran this morning, I almost couldn’t come up with what I would do over other than, obviously, it wasn’t right and we need to go back to the drawing board,” he said.

The year-long preparation was long and hard with a $200,000 facility and demographic study and public surveys, but 75% of the residents voted against it.

One of the reasons?

Many residents, especially at East Central Upper Elementary, said they wanted to see repair work done before building additions like performing arts centers.

Stryker said those repairs will be taken care of through district funds and possibly federal money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

“I’ll take ownership that we need to better communicate to staff and the community of East Central that, look, we can accomplish these things with this money,” Stryker said. “And we’re going to anyway.”

School officials said they will be going back to the public to understand all of the concerns and will address all of these maintenance issues at the schools, but the basics of the bond issue likely won’t change because there’s no other way to grow the district but through a bond issue.

“For your larger-scale projects like your performing arts, your gyms and so on, you have to have capital funding,” Stryker said. “We have not taken a bond out on capital funding since 1996.”

He, along with school board president Troy Frisbie, isn’t giving up.

“It’s not a question of if there’s going to another bond; it’s a question of when there’s going to be another bond,” Frisbie said. “And the reason why is our facilities are aging. We’ve got facilities in the Jackson County School District that are 50 years old. Some of them 60 years old.”

Officials aren’t sure yet when the district will pursue another bond issue, but the cost will likely rise by millions of dollars for the same amount of work - even after only one year - because of interest rates, potential inflation and cost of materials.

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