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School budget faces Saturday deadline

Work on the Mississippi School of the Arts is progressing, butthe current state budget crunch could push its opening back to2003, said Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, director of the school on theWhitworth College campus.

“The construction is going to go forward, but I don’t thinkwe’ll able to open until 2003,” Bodenhamer said Thursday afterspeaking to the Brookhaven Exchange Club about the school.

A $7 million bond bill for the second phase of building work ispending in the legislature, and state budget plans put the school’soperating budget at less than half the $1.3 million sought. Sayingthere is good support for the school in the legislature, Bodenhamerremained confident despite the state budget crunch.

“It’s going to affect everything across the board,” she said.”If we go slow, that’s OK, as long as we go forward.”

The bond bill includes money for Y-Hut renovations, interiorrenovations to Johnson Institute, additional Lampton Auditoriumwork and site work. The bill has passed the House, but not theSenate, and faces a Saturday night deadline for conference action,Bodenhamer said.

On the construction side, Bodenhamer told club members that acontract for the first part of the eight-story Student Life Centeris in final stages of approval. The contract has been signed by thecontractor and is awaiting a final state OK.

Bodenhamer said some aesthetic aspects of the Student LifeCenter were changed for budget reasons. Changes involve thebuilding entrance, a covered walkway and removal of bay windows onpart of the building.

“It’s going to be a much plainer building,” Bodenhamer said. “Wehad to remove some of those item to award it under the budget.”

Bodenhamer said some of the items could still be done withprivate donations. A foundation has been established to acceptcontributions to the school.

Two boards are also in the process of being formed, Bodenhamersaid.

A MSA Advisory Board will have about 25-30 members, broadlyrepresentative of the arts and education fields, and willconcentrate on statewide arts school issues. A Parent-CommunityCouncil will be more Brookhaven-oriented and concentrate on MSAstudent life in the city, Bodenhamer said.

Depending on the funding situation, the school is targeted toopen in the fall of 2002 or 2003 with about 60 juniors who willstudy theatre, visual arts and vocal music. Dance, literary artsand media arts are to be added in the following years until theschool of fully operational with around 300 juniors and seniors in2006 or 2007.

In addition to the residential students, Bodenhamer told clubmembers that she was interested in also having commuter students.Arts school students will receive core curriculum courseinstruction at Brookhaven High School.

“The state has invested a lot of money in this school. Why notserve as many students as we can possibly serve,” Bodenhamer saidabout plans for commuter students.