OXFORD – It was standing room only at Monday’s Oxford Academy and Central School’s school board meeting, at least until someone brought out extra chairs. The meeting had near record attendance as concerned community members gathered in opposition to controversial capital project proposals being reviewed by the board.
A petition, complete with more than 660 signatures gathered in just over a week’s time, was presented to the board and district administration by Oxford resident Tom Emerson.
“We are all tremendously concerned about what it really takes to educate our children; we’re all concerned about the economy; and we’re all concerned about the proper utilization and maintenance of our current facilities,” he said in his address to the board.
Emerson said he had first been made aware of the potential capital project by his brother, David, a member of the district’s Facility Advisory Committee. Emerson said his brother had been frustrated by the lack of involvement the committee, which has not met since February, has had in the process so far.
“I urge you to get more input as you develop your options,” he said, citing his own involvement in two extensive capital projects with area non-profits. “In both instances, feasibility studies were conducted which gauged the support of the community and its ability and willingness to support the projects.”
He said this important step had been done before project details were developed. In the instance of the YMCA, he said, this community feedback led to the construction of the new Y downtown rather than the cheaper option of building a new campus on the outskirts of the city.
“You, the board, are elected by the residents of this district. Over 600 of your fellow residents have urged you to focus on quality education by maintaining, improving and utilizing our current facilities in their existing configuration,” urged Emerson. “Listen to the community and consider today’s economic climate.”
Emerson blasted the board for failing to properly maintain the Middle School building.
“To allow a roof to leak as long as that in the Middle School, is a clear breach of fiduciary duty,” said Emerson. “It makes many of us wonder if the failure is intentional because it plays into someone’s apparent game plan.”
According to Superintendent Randy Squier, the roof in the Middle School started to leak in the winter of 2007-08. Reports from other community members allege the roof began leaking months earlier.
Although district voters approved funding for the needed repairs in May, those repairs have yet to be made.
Squier blamed the delay partially on the backlog of projects awaiting approval from the New York State Education Department. Although project specifications and plans were finalized by the district’s architects, Bernier Carr and Associates, in July, they were not approved by State Ed until September.
Bids for a full tear-off of the roof have been received, said Squier, but the contract will not be awarded until December. Work will not begin on repairs until the spring.
Squier plans on putting out an additional request for proposal to get bids on a partial tear-off of the roof in the meantime, to see if the work can be done for less than the apparent low bid of $112,000 for the full tear-off. He assured the board that, since the work will not be conducted until the spring, putting out the partial tear-off RFP will not delay the project further.
According to the superintendent, sealant will be applied as a temporary measure to prevent additional leaks through the hairline cracks in the roof. He said he hopes this will get the school through the winter.
Emerson also raised concerns about the advisability of undertaking an extensive capital project with the current state of New York’s economy...