The project is part of a larger initiative to transform Vicksburg Warren School District (VWSD) into a 21st century learning community geared to encourage high academic achievement, to increase local talent in Vicksburg’s expanding job market, and to support the goal of graduating every VWSD student prepared for college, career and life. For decades, VWSD had low academic growth, low graduation rates, and despite the burgeoning Warren County economy, the talent pool coming out of VWSD school were not prepared for the engineering and manufacturing jobs available.
This project will position VHS to become one of the most innovative high schools in the country, which will give students opportunities that are typically not available in rural communities in the deep south. VHS’s currently building was built in 1958 and supports 975 high school students. However, the building has not had major renovations since then and its current layout is inefficient and does not support the school’s transformation into a project-based/academy-based learning model.
Voters of Warren County approved VWSD in 2018 to issue $83 million in bonds for various renovations, improvements, additions and expansions for its entire school portfolio including VHS. While the bond funding covers most of the costs associated with the school district, a $48.5 million gap remains. To cover the gap, VWSD decided to pair New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) equity with proceeds from the bond approval on NMTC eligible district schools that require major renovation or construction. VHS is the first of these projects slated to use NMTCs. Without the allocation of NMTCs, VWSD would not have a fully funded budget and would be forced to limit the scope of facility improvements needed to achieve its goals.
Reinvestment Fund is providing federal NMTC allocations along with peer CDFI, Hope Federal Credit Union. Hope is also providing state NMTCs for the project. VWSD is providing the leverage loan funded through a bond issuance through Mississippi Development Bank. Wells Fargo is serving as the federal and state NMTC investor. The financing will expand the VHS facility to 213,975 square feet after construction. The project is renovating existing classrooms, adding 11 new classrooms, a cafeteria, an expanded gymnasium, a state-of-the-art library/media center, and fine arts facilities, as well as a credit union, technology repair center, spirit gear manufacturing center, and a school store- all run by students and open to the public. The enhanced facility will also feature a new state-of-the-art Career Academy, where students can create and invent using cutting edge tools to encourage students to be makers, inventors, artists, and free thinkers. The space will be available in the evenings to adults and students will act as hosts and teach the adults how to properly use the equipment.