By Errol Castens
OXFORD – It’s finally open – the new Oxford High School, at the end of Sisk Avenue near the town’s eastern limits.
Workmen are still on site staining concrete floors, installing classroom speakers and completing other finishing touches in the main academic and administrative buildings, but today teachers get access to their classrooms at the new $30 million campus for the first time, although classes will not begin until Tuesday.
Three of the four connected buildings bear the engraved names of their respective core curricula – Mathematics, Science, History. The ninth-grade building is labeled Wisdom.
“They’re going to get lots of wisdom,” Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey said with a grin.
The main staircase in the two-story school will feature the district seal and glass siding and will be surrounded by stone-topped benches reflecting its curving architecture. (More utilitarian stairs are at the end of each hallway.)
“This will be a kind of commons for students,” School Board President Marian Barksdale said of the staircase lobby.
School Board member Whitney Byars noted a 50-inch TV monitor mounted in the common area near the staircase – one of several throughout the new school.
“This TV is to run announcements throughout the day,” she said. “Now, students won’t be able to go to their parents and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t hear the announcements.’”
Among new technology on the campus are security cameras, exterior doors that can be locked down in an emergency, and energy-saving lighting and climate controls that benefit from the natural light of abundant north windows. Even all the clocks in the school will be synchronized on the wireless network.
Each building will have a teacher workroom equipped with refrigerator, drink machine and copier, to use in their lesson-prep periods.
“It’s what used to be called teachers’ lounges, but nobody ever had enough time to lounge,” Barksdale joked.
In each of the school’s 11 science labs, teachers’ desks have cabinets at each end, with a middle section that raises and lowers as needed for class demonstrations. Student desks can be set in conventional straight rows or can be configured as quads for collaboration.
Each class also has a high-definition TV monitor to integrate graphics and video into lessons, and traditional blackboards are replaced by marker-friendly painted surfaces.
Special academic spaces were designed for ROTC, drama, art and journalism, and student counseling and health services have more room and functional amenities.
“We’ve probably tripled or quadrupled the space that counseling has now,” Byars said. “And the nurse’s office has a bathroom, a shower and a waiting area so when kids are sick you can separate them from the others.”
The gym is still under construction, with a wooden basketball floor yet to be laid, but officials anticipate its completion during the spring semester. Until then, Yates Construction and its remaining subcontractors will occupy the east parking lot, while teachers and students park on the school’s west side.
Lockers were eliminated to reduce thefts as well as hall congestion.
Until funding becomes available for a new arts building and athletic facilities, OHS students will continue to use some spaces at the old campus. The main former OHS building is slated to be renovated this year to become a new junior high school.