Stuart Wiggins

Stuart Wiggins, Jackson County School Board Director of Facilities.

While children have been enjoying their summer vacations, the Jackson County School Board has continued to make improvements to benefit students in the area. Stuart Wiggins, Director of Facilities at Jackson County School Board, took a little time out of his day to share about the $111 million dollars of improvements taking place in Jackson County.

One of the first developments on the minds of many is the Marianna K-8 School. Substantial completion of this $60 million facility is set for May 2, 2020. There will be an open house before school starts and classes are scheduled to begin at the new school in August of 2020. Once students are in the new school, the campus of Riverside Elementary School will be used for Jackson Alternative, Adult Education and Hope School. This will save citizens about $300,000 annually.

There have also been improvements in Graceville. Developments amounting to $10 million will create a new Pre-K-12 school. Stuart shared that combining the schools will save about $300,000 every year.

The School Board is hoping to get funding in the amount of $30-35 million for a new Pre-K through eighth grade school to be located between Grand Ridge and Sneads just west of Four Points. Combining schools reduces annual costs by $500,000.

Jackson County School facilities had more than $11 million dollars in hurricane damage. Stuart has been supervising roof replacements and more than $320,000 in fencing replacements. Over $1 million has been spent on repairs to buildings throughout the district. Signage, scoreboards, bleachers and lighting on three fields have been replaced.

Recently, the Marianna High School stadium parking lot was refinished. Now, the focus is on refinishing the Cottondale Elementary parking lot.

One exciting enhancement is going to be available because of the work of Tony Watkins, Ag teacher at Marianna High School. Tony wrote a grant that will pay for the placement of a 24-by-80-foot greenhouse on the southeast side of the Ag building. The greenhouse will be used to teach students about ornamentals, row cropping and much more.

When asked about why it is necessary to combine schools, Stuart explained how in the mid-1980s there were approximately 8,500 students in 15 schools. Today, there are less than 6,400 students in 17 schools. With the overhead higher and the income lower, policy makers are pushing more private versus public education. “In order to prevent charter schools, the Jackson County School Board has to be more financially responsible,” he added. Overhead for the School Board includes personnel, transportation, fuel, utilities, facility maintenance and similar costs. “The new k-8 school will save almost $1 million a year,” Stuart explained. “That’s money that can be spent on salaries, buses, educational programs, and hopefully the savings will help with music and art programs.”

According to Stuart, Superintendent Larry Moore’s vision is to provide a program second to none in Florida with financial responsibility. The Jackson County School Board understands this vision, is cooperative and wants to do whatever is best for the students in Jackson County. “The future of Jackson County is directly tied to the education we can provide our children,” Stuart expressed. “Stronger and better programs may provide more opportunities here so our children don’t move away after graduation.” In fact, Jackson County School Board has become aware after Hurricane Michael of the need for more construction positions in the community. In response, vocational construction programs will be offered for carpentry, plumbing, HVAC technicians and similar types of work in the future.

It’s great to know that Jackson County School Board is fiscally responsible and forward thinking. To learn more contact Stuart Wiggins at 850-482-1200. Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about new businesses. Shop locally and support Marianna businesses.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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