Oxford School District sets priorities on school projects

OXFORD – If Oxford School District voters approve a bond issue for capital improvements, the move of students in grades 9 through 12 to a new high school in 2013 will trigger a domino effect of facility upgrades and class shifts.
The board last week approved putting the 30-year bond issue for up to $30 million before voters on Oct. 26, primarily in an effort to ease overcrowding on several campuses.
Superintendent Kim Stasny says a new high school that could accomodate 1,100 students seems inevitable.
“We went through numerous scenarios … brainstorming every scenario we could come up with … to address the overcrowding,” she said.
At its meeting Monday night, the board approved the priority of improvements.
After the high school’s construction would come a practice field on the new campus. The field would accommodate classes and some practices without busing students back to the current high school campus, whose facilities will be used several years yet.
The existing high school would be renovated for 600 students in grades 7 and 8. Previously discussed are such items as a new roof, reworking of traffic routes and parking, and mechanical-system replacement.
The next priority would a new front entrance and expanded office space at Oxford Elementary School, along with skylights and added windows and an expanded cafeteria and kitchen. Once finished, the school could house 600 first- and second-graders.
Oxford Learning Center would be relocated to the lower campus of Oxford Middle School. The Scott Center would take over space vacated by OLC’s move, allowing the Scott Center’s special-education programs to expand as well.
“Folks move here to be served by our special education department,” Stasny said. “We are already needing extra space.”
Next on the list is the reconfiguration and upgrading of Bramlett Elementary for 400 kindergartners and pre-kindergartners.
Oxford School District’s administrative offices, under the proposal, would join Oxford Learning Center at the current OMS lower campus while the upper campus, the district’s second-newest school, would welcome up to 600 fifth- and sixth-grade students.
A final priority is the eventual construction of athletic facilities at the proposed high school. Fields and stadiums for several sports total an estimated $5.5 million and likely would be gradually funded by then-current funds, with a target date for completing the last ones by 2020.
Financial side
With a down economy, residents may be hesitant to take on extra taxation – an estimated $134 per year at 6.8 mills for a $200,000 home, for instance. School officials and their bond consultant, say, however, that now is the ideal time in some other important aspects.
Stasny says solving the overcrowding is an issue of both student safety and academic quality.
“Crowded facilities promote fighting,” she said. “Class sizes will increase as classroom space shrinks.”
She added that high-tech high schools are appealing to homebuyers, businesses and industries.
“Toyota already wants to know all about our district; they will sell our district to their people,” Stasny said.
Several people at last week’s school board meeting noted the slow economy’s upside is lower construction costs and more readily available land. Bond consultant Demery Grubbs noted that financing is also at historically low rates.
“Today we’re in an excellent market,” he said. “How long that market holds, nobody knows.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal