Published at Gulflive.com: Friday, February 03, 2012 / By April M. Havens, The Mississippi Press.
MOSS POINT, Mississippi -- The new Magnolia Middle School, Moss Point's flagship facility, will be something the entire community can be proud of, leaders said Thursday afternoon.
District, city and community leaders broke ground for the $20 million facility on Magnolia Street on Thursday afternoon.
Architect Gary Bailey said the phrase "stateof-the-art" is an understatement for this new school, which will take 16 months to construct.
"It truly is going to be one of the finest facilities in the state -- not only in athletics and in food service and in fine arts, but the academic areas will be as fine as anything Mississippi has ever seen," Bailey said.
"The classrooms are technology marvels, and they have everything a teacher would ever want," he said. "Every teacher will have their own classroom and plenty of space to teach."
Bailey called the 122,000-square-foot facility "child-centered, teacher-supported" and a true environment for learning. It is designed for 750 students, he said, and will have a gym that will seat up to 800.
"Probably the most special thing about this building is it's wrapped around an educational courtyard that will house an amphitheater for public events," he said. "It'll create a place where children can not only gather, but also where outdoor education can take place."
The media center and library, Bailey said, will also be very attractive, and a focal point when viewed from the courtyard. "They have some of the finest technology in the state here in Moss Point," he said.
"They have put their money where their mouth is."
The school will have three wings, which will give each grade level its own wing, once district leaders
move sixth-graders to the middle school.
Seventh- and eighth-graders are currently at Magnolia Junior High School, which will have a
new name once the new facility is ready.
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the school in 2005, students were moved to the old Ed Mayo
building on Orange Grove Road.
Superintendent Greg Ladner said the most important aspect of the design is that the wings will divide the grade levels.
"This design will keep them separated not only horizontally but also vertically, because there are two stories in those wings," he said. "We'll further divide the grades into an A or B section, which will be done randomly, and that will allow us to give individualized attention to the various groups."
The new school will cost $20 million, including furnishings, Chief Financial Officer David Rubenstein said.
Most of the funds -- about $14 million -- will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while the district will use a $3 million construction bond and other district funds to make up the difference.
FEMA initially wanted the school district to renovate, not rebuild the school.
It took several years, multiple appeals and a federal arbitration panel in Washington, D.C., to secure full FEMA funding.
W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. won the $16.6 million contract to build the school.
The school -- which began life as the city's high school -- is loved and celebrated by the community and the campus' many alumni.
Debra Goldsmith, president of the Magnolia Alumni Association, said it's a great honor to see the school come back "bigger and better."
Goldsmith, who graduated from Magnolia in 1969, said the students and teachers were more like a family than a school.
"I think this new school is going to build up the morale in the community," she said Thursday, after leading the alumni group in singing their alma mater.
"It's been six years," she said. "But the fact that Magnolia's coming back will give us all a boost."
Ladner said he believes that enthusiasm will transfer from the alumni to the current students.
"This is a very exciting day for the alumni," he said. "And I think they will instill that into these students two years from now, and they will basically be expecting great and greater things from their children and grandchildren."