Rival Mississippi schools to merge, new school soon on ballot

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, February 26, 2022

Two rival high schools in central Mississippi will merge in the next few years, and local voters will decide whether the new school will be built with facilities for arts and athletics.

The Simpson County School Board recently voted to consolidate Magee High and Mendenhall High. The new Simpson County High School will be built near the private Simpson Academy.

In a March 29 election, voters in the county will decide whether the school district will issue $39 million in bonds.

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Superintendent Toriano Holloway said the district started evaluating facilities three years ago, and school board members based the consolidation decision on that study.

“Their intention is to provide our students with a quality education in a state-of-the-art academic facility,” Holloway said in a video on the school district’s website.

Simpson County’s population dropped from about 27,500 in 2010 to about 26,000 in 2020, according to the Census.

WLBT-TV reported that the district appointed Ian Cowart to lead a campaign in support of the bond issue. He said the district already has money to build the new high school, and the bond issue would allow it to build an athletic and fine arts facility at the same time.

If voters reject the bond issue, facilities for extracurricular activities would be built later and students would continue to have extracurricular activities at the site of the old schools.

One parent said he’s excited about the consolidation, but not everyone feels the same.

“A lot of people that I’ve heard from are upset because you’re going from two starting quarterbacks to one,” Joseph Rushing said. He has four children in the district and said he values education more than sports.

Grandparent Clara Hardy said she was initially opposed to the merger because she didn’t want the decades-long rivalry to end. However, she said she has had a change of heart.

“This is for the children. It’s not for me,” Hardy said.