Tribe Hold Ribbon Cutting for New Upper Elementary Building


The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) held a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Pearl River Elementary School’s (PRES) Upper Elementary building, Tuesday, August 13, in Choctaw, Miss (Neshoba County). The ceremony featured remarks by Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben and PRES Principal Suzanne Hyatt. Pearl River Elementary students were also a focal point of the ceremony. The 3rd grade class presented the Pledge of Allegiance, the 4th grade class sang the National Anthem in Choctaw and 5th grader Anslee Shumake provided the prayer and building highlights.

“A proper education is one thing we strive to supply for our children. For years, we have struggled with limited space for our students here at Pearl River Elementary. We have long since outgrown the building that was built in 1990,” said Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben. “A nice feature of this project is the décor used throughout the building as it exemplifies what it means to be Choctaw through the pictures of our traditional Choctaw culture to the traditional language used on signage. I am pleased to say that now the students of PRES have the adequate space to learn and thrive here on our reservation. I want to thank our tribal leaders for understanding the need for this expansion for our children.”

The building services grades three through six and has a total of 23 classrooms, including one computer lab, two tutoring rooms, one Talented and Gifted classroom, and three Special Education classrooms; staff and student restrooms; assistant principal’s office/meeting room; a teachers’ lounge; and mechanical/electrical and IT spaces. The building also includes an outdoor classroom and two new playgrounds with poured rubber as ground cover that allows for bounce. Choctaw cultural features, such as medallions placed above each classroom’s exterior window, interior murals at each building entrance, Choctaw language on signs and the outdoor canopy framing, reminiscent of crossed stickball sticks, have been added to the building.

The entire project cost is $8.5 million. After further review and inclusion of the third grade to the building, an additional $2.5 Million from Tribal Revenue was approved. The original project was approved by the Tribal Council in January 2017 and is partially paid for by settlement funds the Tribe received from the Ramah Navajo Chapter et al. v. Jewell Class Action Lawsuit. With the completion of the Upper Elementary School, all trailers used by PRES have been removed from the campus. Approximately 300 students had their first class in the new building on the first day of school, August 7, 2019.

The architect is PryorMorrow PC from Columbus, Miss., and the contractor is Thrash Commercial out of Madison, Miss. Preparations on the site began in July 2018, construction began August 2018 and officially opened to students August 2019.