Is the Sunflower County Consolidated School District ready to move forward with the planning of a new high school?
The district ran a “request for proposals” in the E-T July 6 asking for “a planner to develop a plan for the construction of a new educational facility.” The deadline to submit proposals was July 31.
However, School Board President Edward Thomas said the public notice was run in error due to a miscommunication because Superintendent Miskia Davis was only getting bullet points together to see what the district was looking for from the planner.
Thomas said they plan to use Brown and Associates “if they’re going to do what we want them to do. If not, then we will advertise.”
Adrian Brown, the Indianola planning firm’s head, could not be reached for comment.
Thomas said the board has received quotes from three companies regarding planning services, but Brown and Associates was the lowest cost. According to Thomas, Brown’s firm submitted a “super plan” that included planning and financials.
Thomas said he didn’t remember exactly how they came up with the three firms that submitted quotes, but they went with the lowest amount from the three.
Thomas said they have been working with Brown to come up with a consensus of what the firm’s role in the process is going to be, but no contract has been signed.
A new high school in Sunflower County has been an intense topic of debate since the state-ordered consolidation of the former Sunflower County, Indianola and Drew districts in 2014.
Gary Bailey, a consultant hired by the school board, said in a 2015 report that the only realistic option is to build one new high school for the district in a central location, probably school-owned property in Blaine, for $25.5 million. That would require both a $16 million bond issue, the maximum allowed, and closing three small schools to save money. The new high school would not include athletics facilities at that cost, and the district would have to continue to use the existing fields in Indianola and Ruleville.
Some have proposed building two new high schools on the north and south ends of the county to replace Gentry and Ruleville Central. However, Bailey said in 2015 that’s simply not feasible with brand-new schools carrying an estimated price tag of $22 million in the south and $19 million in the north.