by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

Despite the excessive rain and the global pandemic (COVID-19), there was hope that the newly constructed West Harrison Middle School would be open for the 2021-22 school year this week…until Monday.  At Monday night’s Harrison County School Board of Trustees meeting among a packed house in the Henry Arledge Administration Building, the school district delivered the bad news.

After hearing from a few parents about the miscommunication from the school district, Harrison County School Board District 3 Trustee David Ladner stated, “We’re sorry, but it just didn’t happen.  It has rained wholeheartedly out in that region and we could not get supplies to finish the work that needed to get done.  We wanted the school to be open, were excited for our kids, and they were excited too.”

An estimate of 650 kids were planning to be in attendance for the first day of school and several parents reported the school district failed to let them know at the appropriate time for arrangements due to their employment responsibilities.

“We’ll make arrangements for the teachers to where they can begin their lessons virtual,” said recently appointed Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitch King.  “The Center for Excellence in this building will help the teachers and we recognize the unfortunate action, but we hope to make this successful and we’re going to make it work.”

King addressed the parents by declaring that no child would be penalized because of the unfortunate scenario they were placed in and the school district was working as hard as possible to make sure classes would begin on time.  Additionally, King conveyed to a few of the parents the thought until Friday of the new school opening.

Furthermore, the superintendent claimed the intent to open half of the school as soon as possible.  Since the school was reported to have an overflow of classrooms for future growth, school architect Marty Hardy believed opening half of facility would be sufficient.

“It is important that we tell our children that this is only temporary,” said West Harrison Middle School Principal Dr. Natasha Williams.  “We have been going to West Harrison Middle daily and get updates to see what’s going on, but you never want to put information out and we were hopeful.  As educators we modify our plan all the time and by our due diligence, we are going to do right by the boys and girls of the school.  Hopefully, we will be in our building three to four weeks.”

The earlier question came out about potential mask mandates, as the Harrison County School District has yet to issue any kind of regulation.

“Vaccinations are important for everyone to help our hospitals keep their resources available for everyone, especially those who get sick,” announced Sandra Norwood, a concerned parent wanting a school mask mandate.  “Our children under 12 are not eligible for the vaccine and if they get sick, could easily cause an outbreak.”

When asking the board of trustees if they would take action, Board of Trustees President; Dr. Barbara Thomas, responded the board would acknowledged the information under advise and consent.

The next meeting for the Harrison County Board of Trustees is scheduled on Monday, August 16 at 5:30pm in Gulfport.