TUPELO • The Lee County School District continues to make progress with construction projects and upgrades, the largest of which is the new career and technical education center, made possible by a $15-million bond issue approved last year.
A 91% majority of Lee County residents voted to approve the bond issue on Jan. 14, 2020, which not only covers the cost of the technical center but also pays for district-wide security upgrades and infrastructure improvements.
LCSD Superintendent Coke Magee has monthly construction meetings with Century Construction, which was awarded the $7.2 million construction bid and broke ground on the project last July.
There have been no significant weather delays and construction seems to be on track for completion by August, Magee said. Walls are going up, furniture is being selected for the interior and Amy Johnson, who will serve as director for the center, is preparing to visit schools and talk with students about classes that will be offered there next year.
Magee said he values the district’s relationship with the Community Development Foundation, which started The Hive industrial park, where the technical center is being constructed.
“With us being the first building out there, I hope that we can be a catalyst to see that industrial park thrive,” Magee said.
The net amount deposited from the 2020 bond issue was $13,521,986, with nearly $2.8 million spent on the tech center project, $321,000 on safety upgrades and almost $92,000 spent on infrastructure improvements so far.
That leaves about $10.3 million in the coffer, $5.1 million of which is slated for the tech center project and will be spent over the next few months.
“It looks like we’re going to be able to do what we envisioned,” Magee said, adding that he’s thankful to Lee County taxpayers and voters for allowing the district to provide opportunities for LCSD students.
Some of the district’s safety and security upgrades that have been or will be purchased with bond issue funds include a Raptor Technology visitor management system, SafeSchools software that provides online professional development for educators related to safety and security on campus, new intercom systems at a handful of schools and a new six-camera security system for each of the district’s school buses.
The district is currently working with PryorMorrow, who designed the career and technical center, to develop a plan for exterior fencing on campuses “to create an inner safe zone” that could lock out threats should the need arise. The plan will need to be approved by the school board and advertised for a bid before work begins, but Magee hopes construction will take place over the summer.
There are also plans for paving and parking lot projects, along with the addition of uniform directional and traffic signs, to make travel on campuses safer.
Infrastructure improvements completed thus far with bond issue funds include new roofs on buildings at Verona Elementary School and Saltillo Elementary School. The district is currently retrofitting older light fixtures with LED lights and is considering replacing outdated HVAC systems across the district.