The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will soon see improvements in its transportation capabilities with the addition of some new buses.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the board approved the purchase of 10 new buses. Five will be allotted for in the districts 2019-2020 budget, while the other five will be purchased with a 16th Section loan. The board also approved authorization for the 16th Section loan in the amount of $500,000 for three years. Both votes were 3-0, with school board secretary Sumner Davis and member Lee Brand absent.

“What they’re planning on doing is getting a rotation basis,” said SOCSD Board President John S. Brown. “I think we’re purchasing five buses with this, and every three years they’ll do another resolution to purchase five every three years.”

He said with the 16th Section loan, the district would be paying interest to itself, rather than borrowing from an outside lender.

District Chief Financial Officer Tammie McGarr said the district was paying off the last of a previous 16th Section loan used to purchase buses.

Assistant Superintendent David Baggett said the new buses would help alleviate some of the district’s transportation woes. He said the district sometimes had to use some of its designated activity buses on routes due to breakdowns.

“This will allow us the same miles that we’ve been having to do,” Baggett said. “If we can get everything operational, we’ll also be able to have a bus at will for the CTE program as well as the high school.”

Peasant said the district was also planning to retire some of its older buses as newer buses come online.

“We’re planning to roll some buses off,” Peasant said.

In addition to the buses, grants and innovative strategies specialist Brandi Burton gave an update on some of the district’s recent grants, including a $120,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Education that the district will use for makerspaces in Sudduth Elementary School, Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School, Overstreet Elementary School and Armstrong Middle School. Each of the schools will receive $30,000 from the grant for a dedicated makerspace in the building.

“This year’s the first that we had makerspace in the district, and it’s mainly made up of manipulatives, that they can build with their hands, and now that we have these awards, we’re going to be adding in technology and all of that.”

Currently, Sudduth is the sole school with a dedicated makerspace. However, by the coming school year, all of the schools listed will have an age-appropriate makerspace. The Sudduth makerspace will feature a Lego wall, and will have manipulatives to teach basic coding. As the grades increase, the manipulatives will become more advanced, with the HWS, Overstreet and Armstrong makerspaces featuring more advanced coding and robotics manipulatives. The Armstrong makerspace will also have small drones available. All of the makerspaces will also have virtual reality capabilities. The Overstreet makerspace will also have a broadcast area with a green screen.

“The whole point of makerspace is to just let your creativity and imagination run everything,” Burton said. “We’re going to have these sliding panels, and the students could collectively come up with an idea, use that board to draw their prototype out, get it together. Eventually thy can draw it in a CAD software and then print it on the 3-D printer.”

“Then they’ve brought a whole idea from imagination to creation, and that’s really what makerspace is about,” Burton added.

Burton also mentioned some of the district’s other recent grants including a $150,000 early literacy grant and a grant to provide a mental health specialist to HWS. In total, the district has received and utilized more than $2 million in grants under Burton’s control.

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