The Oak Ridge Board of Education on Monday endorsed a recommendation to build a new preschool at Elm Grove Park. A new preschool has been on the city’s wish list for years, but this particular proposal is still in the early stages.
The school board received a report from the Joint City/Schools Preschool Planning Committee on Monday and endorsed the committee’s report in a 4-0 vote. The recommendation will now be considered by the city.
There was once a school at Elm Grove Park in east Oak Ridge, and the committee’s report, presented to City Council and the BOE in a work session in October, recommended using that city-owned site, officials said.
“We think that after the factors we discussed, it was the most appropriate site,” Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers said.
The report said a new preschool for Oak Ridge Schools could cost $7.5 million, and it envisions a new 20-classroom facility.
The Joint City/Schools Preschool Planning Committee said the existing Preschool on New York Avenue needs significant repairs, and renovations could cost about $7.5 million, or about as much as it would cost to construct a new facility.
The Preschool Planning Committee, which has nine members and three non-voting members, estimated that the new 40,000-square-foot facility could cost $6.3 million to build.
There would be an additional $1.2 million in expenses for infrastructure, architects, and other fees, and an in-depth analysis by design and construction firms, pushing the total to $7.5 million, according to a summary presented by citizen representative and committee chair Shirley C. Raines during the joint City Council and Board of Education work session in October.
Other sites considered by the committee included the under-used Pinewood Park in central Oak Ridge and the Ridge Greenhouse site in west Oak Ridge.
The Elm Grove Park site is a former school site, relatively flat, and has city-owned utilities, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said.
“This site is very good,” he said.
Next steps suggested in the committee’s report are a community review of Task Force findings and more questions for City Council and BOE members in November 2015 and consideration of resolutions in December. Construction could take 14 months and be complete by September 2017, according to the suggested timeline.
The project could reportedly have an impact on the property tax rate equivalent to between four to seven cents, depending upon the financing options.
Oak Ridge Schools started its preschool program in 1965. Federal Head Start funds were added in 1970 to provide for a full school year program.
The Preschool has been relocated four times. Officials say the current Preschool, which is on New York Avenue in central Oak Ridge, was built as a temporary structure about 70 years ago during World War II.
The Preschool once had 14 classrooms but now has 11 on site, with one additional classroom at Woodland Elementary School.
The Preschool now serves 192 students, with no available space to add more. Officials say there are 55 children on a waiting list. Three to four classrooms must be added, with hopes of adding more later, to benefit the Oak Ridge Schools’ literacy initiative, the Preschool Building Committee report said. Of the 192 students in the Preschool now, 168 are children living in poverty, the report said.
The current program is funded by Title I, Head Start, Voluntary Preschool, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Joint City/Schools Preschool Building Committee met in April, June, July, August, and September.
The report is now available online. You can read a copy of it here, posted under District News on the Oak Ridge Schools’ website.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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