The new preschool could be located at Elm Grove Park in east Oak Ridge or Scarboro Park in central Oak Ridge, and the city’s school board expects to recommend one of the two sites on Monday, a school official said Friday.
Recent discussion had focused on Elm Grove Park and the Scarboro Community Center, where a day care center closed last fall.
But on Friday, Oak Ridge Board of Education Chair Keys Fillauer said expanding the city-owned Scarboro Community Center would require “stair stepping and filling,” essentially work to move dirt and level the site. That’s not cost-effective and not great for the preschool, Fillauer said. Also, the administrative area and gymnasium at Scarboro Community Center would still be used during the day, and the preschool couldn’t be attached to those areas, Fillauer said.
The school board had a non-voting work session Friday morning, and Fillauer said members were shown a very impressive design for a preschool at Scarboro Park, which is across the street from Scarboro Community Center on Carver Avenue. Soil testing has shown that the site is acceptable for building, Fillauer said.
School officials will study the two sites—Elm Grove Park and Scarboro Park—between now and Monday, and recommend one of the two on Monday, Fillauer said. The Oak Ridge City Council could then consider the options during a meeting on Monday, March 13.
There is a question of whether the Scarboro community would support using the park site for a preschool. The park currently has tennis courts, a softball field, and outdoor playing areas for basketball. There is a playground and outdoor pavilion across the street at the Scarboro Community Center.
There has been opposition, including in a petition drive, to using Elm Grove Park for the preschool. That site has been under consideration for much longer. It was identified as a preferred site after a preschool report was issued in October 2015. Officials have received comments from those who don’t support building the preschool at Elm Grove Park.
So far, there hasn’t been any public opposition to either Scarboro Community Center or Scarboro Park.
Fillauer said Reverend Derrick Hammond, who serves as pastor of Oak Valley Baptist Church, and former Oak Ridge City Council member Willie Golden attended the school board work session on Friday, and they supported the Scarboro site. So did a neighborhood resident. Fillauer said he’s had no phone calls, emails, or other contacts opposing a preschool in Scarboro.
Officials have received a preliminary cost estimate of about $9.1 million for the preschool, with the costs about the same for either park.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson has said the city could have a budget placeholder of about $10 million for the new preschool in the next budget to be considered by City Council. The final amount could vary, he said. The city doesn’t have the cash on hand and will need a financial plan. With the help of bond adviser Cumberland Securities, financing information could be included in the municipal budget that goes into effect July 1, Watson said.
Elm Grove Park and Scarboro Community Center were both discussed at a joint work session between the Oak Ridge Board of Education and Oak Ridge City Council on Thursday, January 26. Conceptual site plans and public safety statistics were presented to the two boards.
Studio Four Design, which presented the conceptual site plans, was asked to come back with more information about the two sites—an “apples to apples” comparison—at the February 27 school board meeting.
Plans call for the new preschool to have 20 rooms, and possibly allow for expansion. A new preschool has been on the city’s wish list for many years.
The school board meeting starts at 6 p.m. Monday, February 27, in the School Administration Building at 304 New York Avenue. You can see the agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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