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Teachers get emotional as they prepare classrooms in new $35.5M Biloxi Junior High school

Construction crews bustle around Biloxi Junior High School to complete work on the building as teachers move in their classrooms in preparation for the new school year on Thursday, July 27, 2017. The state-of-the-art 95,000-square-foot building will hold up to 1,300 7th and 8th graders.
Construction crews bustle around Biloxi Junior High School to complete work on the building as teachers move in their classrooms in preparation for the new school year on Thursday, July 27, 2017. The state-of-the-art 95,000-square-foot building will hold up to 1,300 7th and 8th graders. amccoy@sunherald.com

Biloxi Junior High teachers were excited and amazed as they got their first look at their brand new school on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s just wonderful,” said Stephanie Dodd, a seventh grade science teacher, who was among a group of teachers who returned from summer vacation to prepare their classrooms for the upcoming school year. “It’s going to be wonderful for our students. It’s going to be a wonderful space for our students to learn and grow and explore science. It’s just great.”

Dodd said she believes she will have more room to do her job.

“We’re going to be able to incorporate so many more S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities into our lesson plans, and to be able to work those in the labs is amazing,” Dodd said. “I love my former school, but the school is actually the people in it as well as the building. We have some really good people with us here in this building, and they are going to make it great.”

Just the sight of the new building was emotional for some of the teachers.

“I was so excited that I almost had tears in my eyes,” said Simona Pierantoni, a seventh-grade math teacher. “I was just so excited to see it all put together and ready to go. I never had a new school as a student, so I am just so excited for them (students). They are going to have a very organized and clean atmosphere.”

Seventh-grade language arts teacher Rachel Howard said a new promethium board was going to enhance teaching and learning.

“The one I had, had the light projector, hanging from the ceiling, kind of old-school, but it was still awesome,” Howard said. “It did everything you wanted it to do, but this one is touchscreen. Ten fingers can go on it at once. It’s more student-interactive. . . . It’s awesome. We won’t have to change light bulbs out.”

Workers were busy cleaning floors and baseboards and preparing the soil for the sod that is scheduled to be placed on the grounds. And some construction workers were working inside the gyms, which are scheduled to open in another month.

“Everything else is ready,” said Jennifer Pyron, Biloxi Public Schools public relations/community outreach contact. “Most of the work that you see going on right now is cleaning. And then of course we have sod being laid around the school. Everything is pretty much ready and done, just a little bit more cosmetic touches are being done at this point.”

The 195,000 square-foot complex includes 51 classrooms, four STEM labs, three computer labs, two state-of-the-art science labs, two full-size gyms, a fine arts wing, and a food court-style cafeteria adjoining an outdoor courtyard.

Pyron said the project is expected to be completed within the $35.5 million budget.

The school’s projected capacity is 1,300 students. Pyron said she expects enrollment to be between 900 and 1,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students when school opens on Aug. 4.

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