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Oakwood schools considering facilities changes and seeking feedback

Oakwood school officials are looking for feedback from the community regarding efforts on a long-range plan for facilities.

Parents and residents are being asked to help the district decide whether to preserve current buildings through needed infrastructure improvements or construct new facilities.

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On Tuesday, the district sent an email to parents asking for feedback regarding several topics, including the Master Facilities Plan that has been a topic of interest in the community. The survey is available on the district’s website.

“The survey is open to community members, as well as parents. We will also be following up with a second survey about a variety of topics,” said Traci Hale, community relations director for the school district. “While it is focused on district operations and would pertain more to parents … community members are certainly welcome to participate and comment.”

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The plans, according to the email, include preserving current buildings with infrastructure improvements, addressing performing arts rehearsal space issues and exploring the concept of an Early Learning Center for pre-kindergarten-through-first-grade students that could also serve as community space.

“We are creating prioritized phases that can be implemented over the next several years, and it appears this plan would not involve a bond issue until 2019 at the earliest,” Tuesday’s email from the district said.

In March, a public meeting was held at which seven school facility options were presented to those in attendance ranging from a comprehensive renovation of all existing facilities at $48 million, to $102 million for those renovations plus a new high school and early learning center building.

“We have beautiful old buildings,” said Oakwood Superintendent Kyle Ramey. “They continue to serve us well, but we have a responsibility to leave them better than we found them.”

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Some residents have voiced concerns about why a district that continually performs well academically needs new facilities .

Ramey said the money could come from some mix of new bond or permanent improvement levies, private donors or state facility funding. The listed price tags assume all local funding.

Other residents encouraged the district to plan aggressively for future generations, increasing classroom size to state standards and adding space for performing arts and student collaboration.

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“Some of these are band-aids to solve a problem, which we should definitely do at the bare minimum,” said Oakwood parent Sam Dorf. “But this is a great opportunity for us to really grow — to imagine the school rooms and learning spaces for the future.”

Asked whether those bigger, more flexible classrooms really mattered when Oakwood students were already succeeding academically, school board member Cassie Darr said they would allow teachers to do more of the small-group and project-based work that colleges and employers are focusing on.

In small-group sessions, residents were concerned about potential loss of green space for new buildings, classroom size and student count, as well as traffic and parking issues.

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Jill Aldineh, a vocal opponent of major changes, said that with enrollment not projected to grow, significant spending is a mistake. She said that the district has not been open enough about its plans and finances.

Staff Writer Jeremy Kelley contributed to this report.

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