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Natchez High School hosting tours Saturday

NATCHEZ — As a Tuesday ballot referendum aimed at renovating and replacing a number of school buildings nears, the public is invited to tour Natchez High School Saturday to see the structure first hand.

Natchez-Adams School District Public Relations coordinator Steven Richardson said with the vote for the $35 million bond issue nearing, administrators wanted to offer time to meet with the community.

If 60 percent of voters approve the plan, the district will build a new high school in the bean field next to the current high school. The plan would include raising taxes, perhaps for the bond’s life, which could be up to 20 years.

Natchez High School Principal Tony Fields said he planned to walk voters through a typical day at the school.

“We just want to give some real perspective on why there is an urgency for a new 21st century high school,” Fields said. “They can get up close and personal to look at our facilities, what our classrooms look like today, versus what a 21st century classroom should look like.”

Another aspect of academics Fields said he plans to showcase is what he described as the school’s substandard science labs.

“They can have the opportunity to compare that to other schools they may have seen up close,” Fields said. “Or research what a true science lab should look like today.”

Fields said the layout of the campus makes it unsafe.

“Our staff, from the administration to the teachers, the security guards and the custodians, everyone does a great job keeping our kids safe but it is a daunting task daily with the openness of the campus,” Fields said. “I think we have been very fortunate nothing has happened.”

Richardson said he agrees the open campus creates some issues.

“The current high school’s conditions include an open campus layout that is subject to intruders having direct access to any student without having to check in to the office and a layout that forces students to exit classrooms into all weather conditions,” Richardson said. “The glass-encased classrooms also pose danger to students and staff during severe storms.”

Technology infrastructure is also a concern, Richardson said.

“Additionally, the current structures do not support the bandwidth and computer lab spaces needed to successfully test all students during high-stakes state tests that are now all computer-based tests,” Richardson said. “Because of the deficiencies, testing periods extend beyond five weeks, and weak signal strength causes some students to lose answers during tests.”

Reservations are not required for Saturday’s tours. The tours will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school.

Fields said he would like to see people, whether they are on the fence or if they have decided they will vote yes or no, to come out.

“A new school would definitely put us on the right path to better student achievement,” Fields said. “I will walk them through a typical day at the high school and show them just what we know we need to provide a better education for our kids.”