The Biloxi Public School District is planning to build a new junior high to help contend with increasing enrollment, officials said.
The district is in the early planning stages, but if everything moves smoothly, the new school will be open for the start of the 2017-18 school year, said Shane Switzer, the school district's business manager.
School district leaders haven't finalized how they will finance the new building, but Switzer said they have ruled out any sort of tax increase.
The new junior high would not simply add to or replace the existing junior high. Rather, it will revamp how the district organizes its students.
Over the past five years, the district has seen about 250 more students each year. They are absorbed across 13 grade levels, but the increase has been putting a strain on elementary schools in particular.
Right now, five elementary schools serve kindergarten through fifth grade and the junior high has sixth through eighth grade. There is one high school.
The new junior high, to be built on property adjoining the high school, would serve only seventh and eighth grades. The existing junior high building would have fifth and sixth grades.
And removing the fifth-graders would free up space and staff in elementary schools, Switzer said.
"We're not just building a school and that's it," Switzer said. "We're trying to create space at the elementary schools because that area is getting tight for space. Then we can do some more individual instruction, more tutorials."
The change could benefit seventh- and eighth-graders, and put them closer to the high school's arts, sports and academics resources.
"It allows us to use those resources, for example in drama, strings, even the coaches, for both high school and junior high," Switzer said. "When you look at clubs, students start at seventh and eighth grade to do high school activity items, so it's beneficial to those students."
District officials have just begun the planning process.
They've applied for a wetlands permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and have put out bids for clearing 15 acres of land.
An architecture firm has started work but architects and the district are still looking at different concepts for the space. They hope to have a concept drawn up in February.