Two rival high schools in central Mississippi will merge within the next few years, and local voters will decide whether the new school will be built with arts and athletics facilities.
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 the March 29 election, county voters will decide whether the school district will issue $39 million in bonds.
Superintendent Toriano Holloway said the district began evaluating the facilities three years ago and school board members based the consolidation decision on that study.
“It is their intention 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 has grown from about 27,500 in 2010 to about 26,000 in 2020, according to the census.
WLBT-TV reported that the district had appointed Ian Cowart to lead a campaign for the bond issue. He said the district already had the money to build the new high school, and the bond issue would allow it to build an athletics and fine arts center at the same time.
If voters reject the bond issue, facilities for after-school activities would be built later and students would continue to have after-school activities on the site of the former schools.
One parent said he was excited about the consolidation, but not everyone feels the same way.
“A lot of people I’ve heard of are upset because you go from two starting quarterbacks to one,” Joseph Rushing said. He has four children in the district and said he values education more than sports.
Grandmother Clara Hardy said she initially opposed the merger because she didn’t want the decades-long rivalry to end. However, she said she had changed her mind.
“It’s for the kids. It’s not for me,” Hardy said.