Sheer, utter madness. You are probably going to think this is a typo, but, sadly, I assure you it is not. At the September 12 meeting of the Simpson County School Board, board members voted unanimously to accept a $350,000 bid to demolish the 1938 Art Deco Mendenhall High School Auditorium.
I attended the board meeting with several other “Save Our School” advocates to urge the board to consider all its options. The school board could apply for restoration funding from the Community Heritage Preservation Fund, with the State of Mississippi picking up 80% of the cost of the project. Many members of the community have come forward with willing hearts to offer to raise the 20% match the grant requires. Once again, we were told that the historic auditorium stands in the way of the construction of a much needed cafeteria, or “cafetorium.” What nonsense! It seems so completely obvious to me that there is a great alternative, with a new cafeteria being located behind the restored auditorium, it is hard to know how to respond to this very close-minded approach.
Yet, despite the fact that the recent bond issue to fund projects like the new cafetorium was soundly defeated, putting into question whether there will be funding for new construction projects, the board was willing to allocate such a substantial sum to the demolition of this community treasure. As someone who sees the value of the Mendenhall High School Auditorium and what the restoration of this building could mean for future generations, I am dumbfounded by this decision. If I were a parent with children in Simpson County School District, I would be hopping mad at this flagrant waste of limited resources.