Officials break ground on upcoming building at Hattiesburg High

By HASKEL BURNS,

School, city and other local officials didn’t let steady rainfall Monday morning dampen their spirits during a groundbreaking for the upcoming building at Hattiesburg High School that will host 12 new classrooms, an administrative office, three additional special education classrooms and HVAC upgrades.

The 22,000-square-foot facility, which will be located in the front of campus off Hutchinson Avenue at the site of the former building that was recently demolished to make room for the upgrades, will open onto a covered terrace that will lead to a central courtyard space. The courtyard will be designed to provide a multipurpose area for students, including a stage for performing arts, pep rallies and other events.

The new area also will feature a new restroom, a new bus drop-off site, and increased campus security with the addition of site walls, fencing and gates.

“It’s a wonderful day to be here, although it’s raining, but it’s a great day at Hattiesburg High School and a great day to be a Tiger,” high school principal Eric Boney said. “We’re excited about this groundbreaking ceremony – it’s great for the students. We want to thank the community and all the supporters who helped make this a reality.”

Work on the two-story facility, which is being conducted by Codaray Construction, is expected to finish by December.

“It’s going to be fantastic,” Boney said. “It’s going to give us more room, it’s going to give us more classrooms, and it’s going to give us an opportunity to do things that we are not able to do currently. So for years to come, it’s going to be a fantastic place.”

Construction of the building is made possible by a school bond renewal that was passed in May 2018 by 93.97 percent of voters. The bond, which is expected to bring in $22.5 million for the Hattiesburg Public School District, is earmarked for renovating and repairing schools in the district.

Speaking at the groundbreaking, Mayor Toby Barker called the day the bond passed his “proudest day as mayor” since beginning his term in the summer of 2017.

“At a time when our school district had been on the ropes for a couple of years, people said we couldn’t do that – people said our community would not get behind the school system,” he said. “But they did, and they did in a big way.

“I think that sent a message that when Hattiesburg decides to do something, we will do it. When we go after things – big things – we have the wherewithal, creativity and work ethic to get those things done.”

Barker said the long-term solution to bringing a safe and prosperous community – as well as making Hattiesburg a premier city – lies with the city’s schools and educational system.

“And that is why today is so important, that we come forward and we do this, that we show our community that we will reach that next level,” he said. “When we put these ceremonial shovels in the dirt, we are making a choice.

“We are making a choice on behalf of our community, that we are choosing education over ignorance, we are choosing hope over fear, and we are choosing taking control and taking ownership of our own destiny rather than having it happen to us.”

Delores McNair, president of the Hattiesburg Public School District Board of Trustees, also thanked the voters for passing the school bond renewal measure.

“I would like to thank the citizens of Hattiesburg for trusting the board of trustees with the decision-making authority to make this day happen,” she said. “My board of trustees members are leaders who lead from the heart – they have the community at heart and they have our students at heart.

“Everything we do is for the good of our students and our community. We passed the school bond issue with overwhelming support, and that shows that the citizens of Hattiesburg have our students at heart and our school district at heart.”