• TheDMonline.com Staff Member?
  • Log In
Share |

Oxford High School upgrading to new facility

The city of Oxford voted to pass a bond this past October that would make a much-needed expansion to Oxford High School a reality.

The city of Oxford voted to pass a bond this past October that would make a much-needed expansion to Oxford High School a reality.

“We have got to have the physical space for 1,200 students to go,” Oxford School District interim superintendent Brian Harvey said.

With an elementary school holding almost double the enrollment of the high school, according to the Oxford School District Enrollment Summary compiled on Aug. 24, the Oxford School Board is finally making room for the unavoidable growth.

“All of this is geared toward that high enrollment,” Oxford High School Principal Michael Martin said. “Early in, the school system realized that with the large influx of students coming, something had to happen.”

Eley Guild Hardy, founded in Jackson in 1953, is the architectural company in charge of the new Oxford High School facility. Having previously designed the Robert C. Khayat Law Center, the Gertrude Castellow Ford Center and the Residential Colleges on the University of Mississippi campus to name a few, EGH is no stranger to Oxford.

Harvey said the principle architect on the project is Michael Jones; however, he said no documents have been signed by contractors, as the board is still in the bidding process and will not make a decision for a few months.

The $30 million bond awarded to the Oxford School District this past October is being applied to more than just the new high school, which means all of it cannot go toward the new school alone. Harvey said some of the career and technical programs, the performing arts center and the auxiliary gym may not be built right away, depending on available funds.

Some of the money has already been spent on preparing the ground for the new high school, hiring the architect and conducting various academic studies, Martin said. The final cost will not be known until the final structural details are decided upon, which will not be until a contractor has been hired.

“The bids will be taken by various construction companies who want the jobs, and then once those bids are made, then you will truly know what the final cost of the buildings will be,” Martin said. “And that depends on things like the cost of brick, the cost of diesel fuel, the cost of labor, where the construction company is located and who we choose.”

The original estimate for the new high school was approximately $27.7 million, Harvey said; however, that was before the performing arts center was added to the plans.

Harvey said the Oxford School District is being careful to stay within its budget for the new facility. The actual building has been divided into various parts; some are necessities and others are amenities, all of which may not be built immediately. The school board will decide what parts of the school are built first and what is held off for later, Martin added.

“It’s like building your house,” Martin said. “You’d love to have the swimming pool and the three-car garage and the lawn landscape, but sometimes all you can do is get the frame up.”

The current Oxford High School facility is over 50 years old, and Harvey said the new building, estimated to be around 240,000 square feet, will provide students with more places and ways to learn.

“It will be a new learning facility with new learning spaces,” he said. “There are some outdoor learning spaces that are planned and some integration between indoor and outdoor spaces. I think that adds to students being able to achieve (more).”

Harvey said the Oxford School Board hopes to begin construction on the new school in December of this year or in January of next year, with a projected opening date of August of 2013.

Martin said the current facility will still be used after the new high school opens, despite its size and outdated technology. Specifically, the outside areas of the old high school will continue to be used for athletics; it is still undecided whether any auditorium space at the old school will be used, Martin said.

The actual building will be “more or less gutted,” he added, to be updated with new technology, lighting and “a long laundry list” of other things. Martin said the facility will then reopen for seventh and eighth grade.

The final details of the new facility should be ironed out within a couple of months and a few more board meetings, Martin said, as the Oxford School Board is making the decisions about which bid to take and which contractor to hire.

“They are working around the clock on it,” he said.

While the primary goal of the new high school is to accommodate the rising enrollment numbers, Harvey said the Oxford School Board is also aiming to build an energy-efficient facility.

“I am a firm believer that we have to take care of what has been given to us,” Harvey said. “We are looking at building a LEED school and we hope we are going to be able to achieve that.”

According to the U.S. Green Building Council website, LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, “is an internationally-recognized green building certification system.”

The goal is to promote sustainable development and building practices through a rating system, which recognizes projects that “implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.”

In addition to taking a few steps toward Oxford’s green initiative, the new facility will be an influential addition to a developing area.

The new Oxford High School will be located on Sisk Avenue, a decision made after a long search was conducted, followed by deliberation among the board. Martin said the location was chosen based on different criteria, including city limit lines and proximity to the other schools.

“The main thing I am looking forward to personally for Oxford High School is room,” Martin said. “We have a wonderful staff, a wonderful student body and a wonderful community, but you just can’t keep forcing them into a really tight arena and expecting great results. It just doesn’t work like that.”