When the new Army Air Corps Base was established in Biloxi in 1941, it would impact the city schools–“thousands of children over the years to be educated in the Biloxi schools, requiring the construction of new buildings..” (Biloxi Schools: 1940-1949). The city broke ground for construction of a new junior high school April 23, 1941, to be constructed adjacent to the high school on East Howard Avenue. Cost was $122,676 and WPA allotment was $70,376. John T. Collins was announced as the architect, with an anticipated occupancy within 12 months. The design was to match the high school building.
In August 1941, more than 1000 new students were expected to enter the Biloxi schools for fall semester (Expect 1000 New Pupils at Biloxi: High School Gymnasium Will Become Junior High School; City-Wide Changes Planned, Biloxi Daily Herald, August 8, 1941, p. 5). The school system planned to convert the gymnasium into additional classrooms for junior high school students in the eighth grade, with the possibility that seventh grade students might also have to be accommodated in the gym.
Plans were already under way at the time for a new junior high school, under the auspices of the WPA, but the project was stalled.
The WPA program for the new junior high school is not going along at as rapid a pace as might be desired and officials are now endeavoring to have this changed to a PWA program in which case the work would be contracted and completed on a schedule. It might be ready for the second half of the school year beginning in February. (Expect 1000 New Pupils at Biloxi: High School Gymnasium Will Become Junior High School; City-Wide Changes Planned, Biloxi Daily Herald, August 8, 1941, p. 5)
By September, the project was closed for “lack of labor” (Jr. High Project Closes, Biloxi Daily Herald, Septermber 16, 1941, p. 6).
The school job has been under way several months but with the demand for skilled labor and the high wages at Keesler Field the WPA found it difficult to obtain sufficient men to rush the job to completion.
However, the stop in work would not last long, as in November, Mayor Louis Braun and John T. Collins met with regional Defense Public Works officials, and PWA agreed to not only continue the junior high project, but to fund a sewerage disposal plant and a waterworks system (New Public Works Will Begin Soon, Biloxi Daily Herald, November 13, 1941, p. 1). In spring of 1942, the project requested additional funds, which were granted, bringing the total cost to $170,300 (Additional Grant for Biloxi Junior High School, Biloxi Daily Herald, March 28, 1942, p. 3). The project was completed and opened for school in September 1943.
Architect was John Thomas Collins and construction was by Tri-State Construction Company of Biloxi and Atlanta.