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Oxford School District to consider selling off ‘The Tech’ property if agreement not reached

The next chapter in the year-long negotiation between the Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts regarding the School of Applied Technology was written on Monday.

Oxford School District’s Board of Trustees decided that if an agreement with the Lafayette County School Board is not made in how to jointly operate ‘The Tech’ within the next month, they will begin the process of appraising their property at the school.

The purpose of the appraisals would be to sell off their property in an attempt for OSD to create their own career-technical program. Oxford has expressed its desire to break away from the current consortium agreement with LCSD since the summer, due to their inability to get reimbursement from the state to pay for their teacher’s salaries.

In June, the OSD board presented a Resolution of Intent to Withdraw from the consortium following the current school year, but it also expressed the district’s desire to still work with Lafayette County’s school board in a new arrangement that would still offer classes at The Tech for both Oxford and Lafayette students.

Lafayette County school superintendent, Dr. Adam Pugh, has expressed his board’s wishes to keep the agreement how it currently is, but OSD superintendent Brian Harvey said he does not feel that is possible if Oxford wishes to receive money back from the state.

“I told (Pugh) I didn’t think that was an option,” Harvey said during the OSD’s December board meeting on Monday. “If we continue, we can’t get reimbursement for our teachers.”

Both school districts jointly own the building and the land on which the Tech resides, which allows Oxford’s Board to sell off its property if the ultimatum of a January agreement is not met. The deadline set by OSD is due to the fact that course books for the 2020-21 school year must go out to students in February to allow them time to pick out their desired courses at the Tech.

Oxford school board member Gray Edmonson proposed the agreement, which the OSD Board approved during its meeting, be sent to Lafayette for review and to get an answer as soon as possible. Both school districts dismissed for holiday break on Friday and are closed until Jan. 6, which is the same day the next Board of Trustees meeting will be held for Lafayette County’s school district.

“It needs to have some teeth,” Edmonson said of the agreement and the ultimatum. “We started this process several months ago.”

The agreement that OSD approved on Monday states both school districts would divide the classroom space equally and would be given full and exclusive use of two of the four shop areas. Lafayette would be given access to two of the three classroom spaces, while Oxford would have the one remaining classroom. All other areas located on the property and building, including office area, outdoor spaces, restrooms and storage facilities would be considered common space and shared by both school districts.

The current Tech Board, which has members from both school districts’ Boards of Trustees as well as Harvey and Pugh, would dissolve, leaving each district in charge of its own programs, according to the agreement.

Students from each district could still take classes offered by both Oxford and Lafayette’s programs and each district would be required to allow an equal number of students from the other’s district to enroll in any class offered at the Tech at no cost, per the latest proposed agreement. There has also been discussion regarding how to allow equal class time for each school district’s students and trying to match bell schedules at both Oxford and Lafayette’s schools, for which a solution has yet to be reached.

“It won’t be perfect, but as long as the intention from both groups is to do what’s best for the students and allow all of the students the opportunity to take classes they need and want to take,” OSD board member Betsy Smith said.

Oxford’s next school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24.