Jackson County

Ocean Springs looks at offering city building for dyslexia school

Students from the 3-D School in Petal visit the state Capitol in Jackson on a recent field trip.
Students from the 3-D School in Petal visit the state Capitol in Jackson on a recent field trip.

The city has identified five classrooms at the Taconi building on Government Street that could be used a for Coast campus of the 3-D School, a school and evaluation center for elementary students with dyslexia.

If all goes well Friday, the city and the school will agree to a lease that will start the ball rolling to establish the Coast campus.

The plan is to begin in August with three classes of second-, third-, and fourth-graders, 3-D’s director Cena Holifield said.

The school on the Coast will mirror that of the main campus in Petal, whose teachers are all certified dyslexia therapists. The 3-D School is a lab school for a William Carey University program that offers a master’s degree in dyslexia therapy, Holifield said. The teachers who come out of the program often work at the school as well. Holifield is the program’s director.

On Friday, the Board of Aldermen will discuss renting the Taconi rooms at cost to the nonprofit school, which means they pay for maintenance, utilities and other costs. The city could negotiate a lease of the five classrooms by next week.

The name 3-D is short for Dynamic Dyslexia Design School, which has been in Petal since 2008 and worked with hundreds of students whose primary diagnosis is dyslexia. Dyslexia is a disorder that involves difficulty reading or interpreting words, letters or numbers, but has nothing to do with intelligence.

Holifield told aldermen recently, “(Dyslexia) is a smart person’s issue” and one in five young students has it.

A number of Coast children have been going to Petal to attend 3-D’s three-year program. The tuition is $4,500 a year, but Holifield said state funding keeps that cost reasonable. “It’s less expensive than any other special-purpose school in the United States,” she said.

Alderman Mike Impey said this week on Facebook he’s looking forward to the city coming to an agreement that will establish the Coast campus.

“Her program is well-established,” he said of Holifield, “and speaking for myself, it would be an honor to have this school at the Taconi location.

“Land has been donated at Traditions on Highway 67 for a school. However, the building of an actual school is years away and right now, they need a good location.”

The board voted unanimously to have the city attorney and staff meet with Holifield’s staff and work things out, Impey said.

Holifield said if an agreement is reached Friday, she will spend the weekend setting the criteria for people interested in sending their children to the new campus.

She said evaluators already are testing children for the Coast school, and those already tested will have priority.

“The children can’t be accepted into the school without the proper testing,” she told the Sun Herald. “If parents are interested in their child attending, we have to hear from them.

The website will have guidelines and criteria, and enrollment details.

She stressed that dyslexia must be a child’s primary diagnosis.

“We’ll fill those classrooms up pretty quickly,” she said. “Taconi is a great location. It’s temporary, but it will serve us well for the next two to three years.”