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School board members get update on new school building project

NATCHEZ — Natchez Adams School District Board members held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss updated plans for a new high school the district is planning to build with representatives of the construction company on the project.

The new high school will be built on property known as the “bean field” adjacent to the existing high school that will be refurbished to house middle school students.

The total cost of the project is $25 million, including remodeling the current high school to become a middle school facility at an estimated cost of $9 million of the total cost.

The project will be financed through a combination of trust certificates and a millage increase, school officials have said.

Last week, the Adams County Board of Supervisors approved the school board’s $14,237,156, budget request, including $445,469 that is for renovating the old high school.

The budget request necessitated a millage rate of 53.21, which is up from 51.18 last year for a 2.03 mil increase.

One mil is equal to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

During Wednesday’s meeting, representatives Marco Gonzalez and Bob Bernard of Volkert Inc., construction company of Mobile, Alabama, updated school board members on plans for the new high school and renovations to the old high school.

“I know at one point the project was at 150-something square feet, and it went down to about 128,000 square feet when we started it,” Gonzalez said of plans for the new high school. “Now we are at about 104 square feet. … We have just been very efficient in how we have put this school together.”

Ganzalez said the overall school was originally planned to accommodate 1,200 students but was later scaled back to accommodate 800 students.

“So obviously that shrunk,” Gonzalez said, noting the cafeteria had been reduced in size where much of the square footage was saved. “We did take down some classrooms but you have enough classrooms in there to fit a certain number of kids per classroom, all your kids. On top of that we had three labs in there at one time —physics, chemistry and biology. We consolidated the chemistry and physics into one. The gymnasium and athletic area have been condensed while still allowing seating capacity the administration wanted to have in there.”

As for renovation of the high school, Ganzalez said the budget for the high school renovation is now at $9 million down from $16 million originally.

“With that $9 million what we had to end up doing was backing our way into what the construction dollars were,” Gonzalez said, adding they took out percentages for designs, furniture, technology, testing, etc. “Then going backwards, we ended up with a little over $7 million for construction.”

Ganzalez noted that priorities for renovating the building include water and sewer line upgrades, roofing and relocating some restrooms all of which estimates totaled at more than $1 million which leaves $6 million to remodel classrooms with flooring, ceilings, paint and lighting, adding a home economics room and designating wings for sixth, seventh and eighth grades and a facility for a Junior ROTC program.

“We’ve got bathrooms that will be spread out to different areas,” Ganzalez said. “Classroom renovations include ceilings, floors, paint and some lighting. That’s what we have there for the budget. Nothing in there for the gymnasium or auditorium.”

During discussion, board member Phillip West asked about possibly finding some sort of roofing for the outdoor walking spaces to keep people from being exposed to rain and elements when navigating the courtyard system between the pods of the facility.

The representatives said they would look in to those costs.

No action was taking on the school plans during Wednesday’s meeting.

Adams County voters rejected a $35 million school bond issue at the polls in May 2017 that would have funded a new high school as well as renovations to Susie B. West and Frazier elementary schools.

After the bond issue failed at the polls, the school district proceeded with a 3 mil tax increase to fund a scaled-back version of building a new high school.

A group of citizens sued and put the project on hold until earlier this year when the suits were settled out of court.

Mississippi law allows school districts to levy up to 3-mils in limited tax notes for the construction of school buildings.

The Natchez Adams School district submitted this year’s budget proposal to the Adams County Board of Supervisors last week and the board of supervisors accepted the budget during their regular meeting and agreed to assess a 53.21 millage rate which is up 2.03 mils from last year’s school district millage rate of 51.18.