Grounds broken on ninth-grade academy

June 17, 2008

Grounds broken on ninth-grade academy

By Ida Brown / senior staff writer

In August 2009, ninth-graders in the Meridian Public School District will start a new school year not only on a new campus, but also in a new state-of-the art building.

To commemorate this education milestone, a groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning at the site designated for the ninth-grade academy: the grove area on the Meridian High School campus.

“We’re here today because of the generosity of the citizens of the city of Meridian in passing the bond issue a year ago,” said MPSD Board President Fred Wile. “And building a ninth-grade building is one of the cornerstones of that bond issue.”

This will be the first new school building constructed in the district in more than 40 years.

“There are few districts in this state that have the ninth grade not located on the high school campus,” Wile said. “Starting a year from now, this district will join all others with ninth-graders being part of the high school campus. This academy will give our ninth-graders an opportunity they have not had in the past – transition to the high school, with the extra care and attention that it takes to make that transition and to continue staying as students until they graduate.”

Pryor & Morrow Architects, which has offices in Columbus and Tupelo, was chosen to oversee the project. The firm’s work includes the redesign of the Marks Rothenberg building.

The academy will be located across from one of the campus’ more modern looking buildings, the auditorium. According to Wile, the architects focused on how to make this building architecturally enhanced, but fit in with the high school. In March 2007, a $19.5 million bond was approved for the Meridian Public School District. Of that amount, $10.2 million was designated for construction of the ninth-grade academy on the MHS campus.

Last week, trees were cut at the academy site and surrounding area. According to Chris Albritton of Albritton Construction Company, contractor, once the trees and other debris have been removed and the area excavated, construction work – concrete pouring, building foundation going up – will get under way in the next 30 to 45 days.

With the ninth grade located at the high school campus, there also will be changes at the local school district’s other campuses, particularly Kate Griffin Junior High School.

“The district and the city of Meridian are beginning conversations on what can be done with Kate Griffin, how it can be best used,” Wile said. “It’s in an important part of town and it’s a good building, but it has served its life as a school building. As a community, we need to come up with a use for that building that enhances that part of town.”

The district plans to incorporate the eighth grade into the middle schools. Thus, middle school will include sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, and will be at Carver, Magnolia and Northwest, Wile said.