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City of Laurel, Laurel School District continues major investments in education

On Thursday, May 16, 2024 at 9 a.m. the Laurel School District celebrated the completion of a 4,500 square foot addition to Laurel’s Upper Elementary School on the D.U. Maddox Campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Laurel School District Superintendent Dr. Toy Watts cut the ribbon before leading community leaders and stakeholders on a quick tour of the new facility.

The 2-million-dollar project, which was completed in 10 months and included the addition of a new set of student restrooms and four large classrooms, was financed with federal grant funding related to Covid-19 relief. As such, the project will allow for better air quality in the school and will facilitate social distancing if, or when, it is needed.

It will also allow for smaller class sizes, and more flexible and dynamic teaching opportunities, Assistant Superintendent Michael Eubanks explained. The new classrooms will be provided with furniture that will allow teachers to set up different zones in the classrooms for one-on-one learning, teacher-led learning, and work in small groups. Eubanks expects that this flexibility will help students to “spread out and be engaged with the learning process.”

“It is important to have facilities that are conducive to learning. Students learn in environments that are new, clean and well taken care of,” he explained. “We have done so many projects, and I am always so excited to see the faces on the students whether they are little children or in high school. They are so excited about it being for them. It’s like Christmas morning.”

The Laurel School District has been working on several building projects for students in the City Beautiful.

Last June, the district held ribbon cuttings at the newly constructed Laurel High School Field House and Nora Davis Elementary.

The field house needed renovations after being damaged in a fire in January 2022 and, during the reconstruction process, the district also renovated the “Pink House” to serve as a field house for their female athletes now called “The Lady Tornadoes Athletic Facility.”

Later that day, the district held a ribbon cutting and reception at Nora Davis Elementary School which was rebuilt after being destroyed by an EF3 tornado in December 2019. Completion of that campus facilitated the district’s previously approved restructuring plan.

In previous years, students attended elementary schools based on where they lived. In 2018, the school board approved a redistricting plan that changed the school district into a grade-level district where all students in the district attend school based on their grade-level rather than location. The 2023-2024 school year will mark the first year that the city has been on the grade-level basis and feedback for the new program has been positive, according to Lacey Slay, Chief Information Officer for the Laurel School District. “There is research behind it,” she explained. “Across the state, many of the higher performing school are grade-level schools.” She pointed out that it is good for students to be with their peers starting in elementary school rather than having to go to separate elementary schools only to be joined in middle school when students are facing the emotional and social pressures of the teenage years.

Currently, students attend Oak Park Elementary School for pre-k through 1st grade, the new Nora Davis Elementary School for 2nd-4th grade, Laurel Upper Elementary for 5th and 6th grade, Laurel Middle School for 7th and 8th grade, and Laurel High School for 9th through 12th grade.

More information about the field house and Nora Davis school can be found here: https://impact601.com/news/laurel-school-district-holds-ribbon-cutting-ceremonies-for-new-athletic-facilities-and-nora-davis-elementary/article_2a8172c6-0d41-11ee-a138-d3f7374e5dbf.html

Looking toward the future, the Laurel School District is continuing to complete projects that will enhance the educational experience of the city’s students. They are currently making future plans for Mason School to serve as a Family and Community Resource Center for the district. The district has also been proactive in completing district-wide asbestos abatement and mechanical upgrades to HVAC and electrical systems in order to improve the air quality at each facility.

“We are excited and we are so appreciative of our board staying committed so that our students have excellent facilities to learn in,” Eubanks said.

MitchCo Construction completed the new annex; Eley Guild Hardy of Biloxi served as architects for the project.

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