Church Street might be used for pre-K

Tupelo School District LogoBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Church Street School may again house students.

This time, it could be Tupelo’s smallest pupils.

Tupelo School District leaders said during a School Board work session on Tuesday that if the district is able to continue to expand its pre-K program, it could one day place five classes of 4-year-olds at the historic structure.

The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, last held students in December 2012 when the district disbanded its High School Advancement Academy. It was last used as an elementary school during the 2010-11 school year. After that, it was merged with Carver Elementary, and its students were sent to Carver and Lawhon. It is now housing the district’s finance and curriculum departments.

Tupelo’s pre-K program is currently located in its Early Childhood Education Center at King School. It has 14 classes there and about 270 students, roughly half the size of a kindergarten class.

Superintendent Gearl Loden has often spoken about wanting to expand the district’s pre-K program, if it can get the funds. After adding a class to the school this fall with money from a Toyota grant, there is space to add only one more class.

The district had explored expanding the ECEC building to add more classrooms, but bids came back much more expensive than expected. That’s when it began to explore the option of Church Street.

There are no immediate plans to add pre-K classes to Church Street, Loden said. However, if statewide momentum for pre-K continues to build and more funds become available, it could happen, he said.

Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon said the district would have to add a playground to the Church Street site. Members of the district’s curriculum department could serve as on-site administrators for the school.

The remarks about Church Street came during a discussion of recent, current and future construction projects. Current work includes the renovation of the Tupelo High School baseball field and the construction of a field- house/locker room for soccer, track and cross country behind the home bleachers on the football stadium.

Both projects are expected to be completed by the end of December, weather permitting.

The district also is installing a system that allows tracking of security officers’ patrols throughout the day. It will include several electronic devices in schools, and the officers will “check in” with a digital key when they pass these points.

Among the future projects the district will explore is creating more ornate entrances to Thomas Street and Pierce Street elementary schools to more clearly mark where the front of the school is located.

It is exploring upgrading alarm systems at some schools and adding more security cameras. It also is considering new options for its maintenance storage building, currently located behind Joyner school.

Facilities Director Julie Hinds said the district has applied for a FEMA storm shelter grant that could allow it to build a structure on one or more of its campuses to be used both as a community storm shelter and a gym or multipurpose building. FEMA would pay for 90 percent of the building’s cost. The district expects to learn more in 2014.

Athletic Director Andy Schoggin also mentioned the possibility of creating a small cross country trail on the high school campus. It may not be a full trail, he said, but would give the team somewhere else to practice without leaving campus.