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SAD 17 will lease Oxford site
OXFORD — Oxford Hills Middle School students may have a different building and education format to look forward to next year as SAD 17 moves forward with its plan to utilize a building on Madison Avenue.
During their meeting Monday, board members voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Rick Colpitts to enter into a lease agreement with Speedway Inc. for the 22,000-square-foot building.
Signing the lease is contingent on state approval of the plan and inspection by code enforcement and safety officers, Colpitts said.
If the deal goes through as expected, it means the district can finally get rid of seven aging portable classrooms at OHMS.
The five-year lease is expected to have no cost for the first year and $198,000 for each remaining year. Colpitts told the board that $150,000 was included in next year's budget for set-up costs.
The lease price was $9 per square foot, Colpitts said, a discount on local values of $12 per square foot.
The district intends to apply for $8 per square foot reimbursement from the state, but Colpitts was skeptical of approval, considering the state has already reimbursed the district for the OHMS portable lease-purchase.
"The state's already bought us one solution ... I'm not sure they're going to be willing to help us with an updated solution for the same site," Colpitts said.
Out of the eight options considered by the operations committee, leasing Madison Avenue was considered to be the best short-term solution that met the district's safety and programming considerations, Colpitts told the board.
In addition, leasing the building may help the district move closer to its ultimate goal – renovating OHMS or building a new school.
Officials have repeatedly said the district is at least 10 years away from receiving state funding for that project.
At the meeting, Colpitts said the operations committee had looked at renovation, estimated at $21 million, or new building, $22 million, but decided payments on a 30-year bond for the project, upwards of $1.4 million per year, wasn't feasible.
Other options, like renovating the OHMS portables, purchasing new portables, buying a new or used modular attachment for the middle school or renovating the Mildred Fox School in South Paris were determined to be either too expensive or poor long-term solutions, Colpitts said.
Options ranged from portable renovation for up to $350,000 to buying a new modular unit for up to $2 million.
The committee's ultimate consideration was to find a solution to the OHMS space problem that also positioned the district to move further up the list to receive state funding for a new school, said Operations Committee Chair Nick DiConzo.
"What we were trying to do is set the district on a course for a middle school solution that will be a long-term fix," DiConzo said.
OHMS Principal Troy Eastman and Assistant Principal Tara Pelletier told the board that leasing the Madison Avenue site also presented an exciting opportunity to implement new ideas to OHMS programming.
Although still in the planning stages, the idea would be to switch OHMS from a quarter system to trimesters and focus on in-depth, thematic instruction, Eastman and Pelletier said.
Seventh and eighth grade students would be split into three teams that would rotate through the Madison Avenue location once during the year.
In one trimester, two teams would be housed at OHMS ("north campus") and the third at Madison Avenue ("south campus").
Each trimester, students would focus on one thematic area – visual and preforming arts, humanities, or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math.)
Pelletier told board members that daily instruction in core subjects would continue with an emphasis on the three thematic areas.
Staff members would rotate with the same group of students through the trimesters and administration would also rotate between the two buildings.
The new program came mainly from teacher's suggestions and OHMS staff were very excited with the opportunity Madison Avenue presented, Eastman reported.
Colpitts acknowledged questions about transportation, gymnasium space, food services and classroom use still need to be addressed and said the district was still in the early stages of putting a full plan together.