The Ocean Springs School District is facing budget constraints, forcing officials to make major changes, including relocating students in its Alternative School to the same campus as middle school students. The announcement was made public today. The Ocean Springs School District says its budget issues have been building over several years. The district is one of the only ones along the Coast that does not benefit from gaming and industry tax revenues, forcing it to make cuts while still working to provide a quality education. The Ocean Springs School District says it's been under-funded by the state for last five years, forcing the school district to make sharp cuts to its budget. Michelle Smith, the School Board President of Ocean Springs, says, "Over the past five years, we've been short about 2.7 million dollars every single year, so if you add that up over five years, that’s 15 million dollars."
Officials are now moving quickly to make major changes to its operation, including moving the Alternative School from the Elizabeth H. Keys building downtown, to an unoccupied building right behind the Ocean Springs Middle School. The change will be effective in July, just in time for the new school year. Jon Smith, the Director of the Alternative School, says, "It’s cheaper for the school district, to have us operate in a building that already has existing utilities, than us stand alone with our utilities here." The entire Alternative School will be moving into a smaller building behind Ocean Springs Middle School. It’s almost a perfect fit because the Alternative School has less than 50 students at one time. Smith says parents should not be alarmed that their middle school students will now be sharing a campus with peers undergoing disciplinary action. Jon Smith also says, "The Alternative School always kind of evokes a kind of a defensive posture in some people, but we're going to be in a standalone building. We'll have very little impact on the school's day to day operation." Both groups will also start and end classes an hour apart and have separate lunch periods. Michelle Smith closes, "We're still performing at a level that's amazing with what we're operating with, and so we want to continue to provide that kind of education for our children, but we have to look at every dollar and work within our means."
Once the move is complete, the district plans to use the empty E.H. Keys building to generate revenue by leasing it to outside parties. School officials say their goal is to make efficient budget cuts that will have little impact on the quality of education they currently provide their students. News 25 did not get to speak with many parents today, but we'd like to hear what you think about Ocean Springs school officials’ decision to combine the Alternative School and Ocean Springs Middle School to one property. You can tell us what you think on our Facebook page, WXXV News 25, or on our Twitter page @WXXV25.