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Oxford School District wants to do it right

Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey admits some mistakes were made in 2011 when the school asked the community to support a bond referendum for the new Oxford High School.

As the district grows, the need for a new elementary school has become more apparent. However, Harvey says, this time, the district will make sure all their “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” crossed before they ask for the community’s OK for another $20 million bond referendum for a new elementary school.

Harvey spoke to the Oxford EAGLE’s editorial board recently about the district’s past, present and future plans.

Overcrowded and growing

Oxford Elementary School has 720 students registered this year.

“OE is built to handle about 610-620 students,” Harvey said. “We couldn’t fit all the kids at OE so we have four first-grade classes at Bramlett Elementary this year.”

Harvey said the district came up with four options — continue having some of the first-grade classes at Bramlett; re-zone the district into neighborhood schools for grades one through four; raise the millage .5 to renovate OE, which is estimated to cost $2 million and then build a new road from Highway 7; or to go for the bond referendum for $20 million to build a new elementary school and then turn the current OE into the central office for the district, which would require less renovations.

The district prefers option four; however, Harvey said the district will not rush the process.

“One of the things we could do better than last time is to make sure we have the property under contract so the public knows where the school is going. Have a good conceptual plan and have hard numbers so people know what the school is going to cost.”

If the referendum is passed, homeowners would see a $20 raise in their taxes on a home valued at $100,000.

Harvey admits that in 2011, the district didn’t ask for enough money because they didn’t have solid construction figures. The district ran out of money and some of what was originally planned for the school wasn’t built, including a performing arts theater and athletic fields.

“Once we got started, we couldn’t just stop,” he said.

Harvey said he’s been looking at available property around the city; however, the district realized they have 10 acres of land near the Oxford Intermediate School off North 5th Street.

Harvey said the location wasn’t as viable a few years ago before the school changed their school hours. Schools in 2011 were starting and ending at the same time. Having two large schools on that property would have been a nightmare, Harvey said.

“However, we’ve changed our start times and they’re now staggered,” Harvey said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces, but I think that location could work.”

The Oxford School District Board has not yet voted on whether to go forward with the referendum or approved a location for a new school.

“We still have to get good cost estimates on construction, what dirt work we would need, utilities,” he said.”We have to have a discussion about what buildings may be displaced and how we’re going to handle that. We got to get good numbers.”

Harvey said he hopes to make a presentation to the school board on Oct. 24 during the district’s regular meeting and the hold a public meeting.

“We want to explain the entire process and be transparent through the who thing,” Harvey said. “We made mistakes last time. We’re doing what we can to not make those same mistakes again.”