The Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees on Monday voted to a approve a resolution seeking a $37.9 million bond issue for capital improvements. Voters will decide on the issue in March.
Board President Casey Favre spoke at length on the bond issue Monday before the matter went for a vote, answering questions and responding to criticisms by Ron Thorp, a member of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government.
“Our needs are where we are, facility-wise,” Favre said. “We really only have two options — to fix them or to let them continue to degrade, and they’re not going to fix themselves. … The buildings exist in the state that they exist.”
Favre said the list of projects to be funded by the bond issue was compiled after lengthy meetings with district faculty and staff and included, among other things:
• A new Pre-K wing, additional playground facilities and drainage improvements at Waveland Elementary School.
• Classroom renovations and additional facility improvements at Bay High School, along with relocating the ROTC practice field.
• STEM Teaching wing and outdoor dining area at Bay-Waveland Middle School.
• STEM teaching facilities and additional playground with security improvements and more at North Bay Elementary.
• Improvements at the Crossroads Learning Center, including improving classroom size.
• Improvements, restroom upgrades and press box renovations at school sporting facilities.
• Updating concessions, restrooms, electrical systems and drainage at the football/soccer field.
• Multiple upgrades on classroom facilities, HVAC systems, safety protocols and ADA upgrades at several facilities.
• Fieldhouse and gym projects at Bay Waveland Middle School, to include a hardwood floor and bleachers.
Favre said some of the questions trustees were posed were “why now?” or “why the rush?”
He said the bond issue was “an attempt to leverage (federal funding levied through the CARES Act for pandemic relief) to the very best of our abilities.… If we intend to make the most out of the federal money, that has to be done in conjunction with the bond issue.”
Favre said many of the issues the board hopes to correct with the bond issue have existed since long before he joined the board six years ago.
Favre also addressed questions about enrollment dropping in the district.
While it is true that the district has about 219 fewer students enrolled this year than it did six years ago, he said, that doesn’t mean the students were all in the same classes or age group, so you can’t just eliminate classes or facilities, just adjust to operate with smaller class sizes.
If the bond passes, it could mean a millage increase for taxpayers.
“The school board is not raising your taxes,” Favre said. “The school board is simply saying, ‘These are our needs. Do you support them?’”
After Favre’s presentation, Thorp addressed the board in public forum. He praised Superintendent Dr. Sandra Reed and Director of Curriculum Nicole Menotti for helping the district rise from a C rating to an A, and thanked the board members for giving of their time to serve the district.
However, he said he felt the board’s public discussions of the bond issue were not properly advertised, and he felt the funds sought were excessive.
Also during public forum, Rachel Knight — a mother of two children in the district — told board members she was firmly in favor of the bond issue. Knight said the improvements were badly needed.
Mickey Lagasse — city clerk for the city of Waveland — told board members he had not yet “researched” enough to know whether he supported the bond issue, but urged them to hire an experienced construction manager for the projects if the bond issue is approved.
Voters in Bay St. Louis and Waveland will head to the polls on March 29 to determine whether the bond issue passes.