SSD bond issue work put on display

What started as a dream in 2007 to improve the Starkville School District culminated Sunday afternoon with the Building for the Future Showcase.
Four separate ceremonies took place at each of the SSD schools now that the $26.5 million bond issue is complete.
The largest school bond issue in Starkville's history was passed in October 2007, but it wasn't until the start of the 2010 school year that the full transformations were complete.
"We had been talking about it for a long time," said Pickett Wilson, SSD school board member, on the need for facility improvement. "It's just very exciting," she added of the completed project.
Once the bond issue was passed in 2007, committees were formed at each school to determine the needs specific to each school.
Sudduth Elementary was in need of more classroom space and a designated area for athletics. The previous physical education room doubled as an extension to the cafeteria, and low ceilings made more sports impossible to play.
Today, Sudduth has a brand new wing, which comprises two floors of classrooms, and a band new gymnasium. A community walking track was also added to the playground area.
One of the largest transformations took place on "The Hill" as it has come to be known. Ward-Stewart Elementary and Henderson Intermediate were separate schools sharing one campus. Today, the two schools are joined to become Henderson Ward Stewart.
With the bond issue also came grade redesign. The Hill previously housed fourth, fifth and sixth graders, but now HWS is home to third through fifth grade.
Henderson Ward Stewart committee chair Katherine Hackett spoke at the ceremony and thanked the community for its support over the last three years.
"When we started the planning, there was so much to be done, but now we have evident today that it can be done," Hackett said. "My vision was we needed more classrooms, we needed technology. We have to keep up with technology because it's always changing. And we needed safety. All that together, as a community, we needed to pass this bond issue to let out children know how much we care about their education."
Though it was a long, and sometimes tedious road, Hackett is "thrilled" with the results.
Parents for Public Schools member Anne Buffington shared in Hackett's joy of the day.
"I'm thrilled to look around to see the transformations," Buffington said. "It's a testimonial to parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders what we can do when we work together."
Armstrong Middle School was in need of space with sixth graders moving in to join the seventh and eighth graders. The last of the construction projects to be completed, the new sixth grade building at AMS serves as an upgraded and state-of-the-art space for the sixth graders to feel at home.
Bond Committee chair Troy Outlaw, who attended AMS when he was a child, knew when he joined the committee that space and upgrades were the top priority.
"My daughter was probably sitting in the same desks I did," he joked. "We knew there had to be a whole lot of space, but I had no idea it was going to turn out this nice."
Jenny Turner co-chaired the AMS committee with Outlaw, and she knew space was the biggest issue with the addition of roughly 300 children being added to the mix.
"We wanted a building the sixth graders could use, but also house the special classes," Turner said of her vision. "We needed space."
To make room in the cafeteria for an extra grade of students, the cafeteria needed to be expanded, and in the process, classrooms dedicated for special classes were lost. In the new building, the sixth graders will use one floor while the special classes use the second floor.
Supt. Judy Couey is pleased with the completion of the bond issue, and ready to get back "doing my job with the construction being finished," she joked.
But as for the students, Couey is confident the new buildings will incite a sense of pride district wide.
"When you feel good about your surroundings, you're going to have a better attitude about it," she said. "I hope the students take pride in their new surroundings."