Oakwood schools’ $8.8M arts expansion marks new phase with foundation

OAKWOOD — An $8.8 million privately funded project for new and upgraded arts facilities at Oakwood Junior High and High School is entering a new phase.

An agreement between the Oakwood Schools Foundation and the school district establishes “the terms and conditions relating to” the Flourish project, which will fund the performing and visual arts facilities at the 114-year-old Far Hills Avenue building, the document states.

The deal marks a growth milestone between the two entities, Oakwood Board of Education President Todd Duwel said.

“Seeing now where we’ve come … and seeing the strategic collaboration where we’re not necessarily thinking — well, we are — about today’s kids, but (more) generational, strategic collaboration,” Duwel said this week as the school district approved the pact.

The partnership is “just moving mountains — and it’s fantastic to see what has been accomplished,” Duwel added.

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The foundation has contributed $640,000 to the schools for pre-construction work by Ruetschle Architects Inc. of Dayton, an OSF official said. That includes about $168,600 accepted this week, records show.

The plan is designed to “elevate and celebrate the arts in Oakwood,” the OSF has said.

The project would renovate the building’s art area for “a new Visual Arts Center that includes new classrooms, and an open art gallery to showcase and celebrate student, alumni and community art,” foundation records state.

The plan also calls for updating the auditorium with acoustical and video enhancements, theatrical lighting and equipment upgrades.

While supply chain issues may impact the project’s timeline, it is targeted for a December groundbreaking and completion in 2024, OSF member Bre Andrews said.

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“It’s going to keep our arts competitive with surrounding communities,” Andrews said. “Arts are in the top extra-curricular activities” in Oakwood, with band being first and orchestra second.

“So having rooms that are large enough for storage, that have acoustics that actually match what the band and the orchestra and the music are supposed to sound like is going to enhance that educational opportunity so that all of our students have that the academic excellence and teaching excellence … to make them competitive in their pursuit of the arts,” she added.

Slightly more than $5.5 million has been raised in the campaign so far from 80-plus individual donors, Andrews said.

Fundraising efforts by groups such as the Oakwood Band Alumni are aiding the project, she said.

“It shows how much band and music meant to people who went to school 20 years ago,” Andrews said.

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