By Sue Kiesewetter
OXFORD - Two months after closing Stewart Elementary School, the Talawanda Board of Education is cutting nine teaching jobs, increasing class size and putting the closed school on the auction block.
During the past five years, district enrollment has dropped by 320 students to about 3,200. Eliminating the positions - all through attrition - will save about $500,000, said James Rowan, Talawanda treasurer.
While students will be shifted to two other schools, the 7-acre Stewart campus has become a potentially important development site for the city of Oxford because of its location in the city's mile-square district.
"This is a key corner for the city, a transitional piece of property," said Bernadette Unger, Oxford planning director. "It's a very attractive piece of land. It's within walking distance of the (Miami University) campus and the retail area."
For that reason, the city wants to make sure the site is developed properly. Now zoned for general business, Unger said the city would be looking for a buyer willing to follow the architectural design for the mile square.
"This is a community that's very conscious of design, and we're proud of our architecture," Unger said.
Unger said she has received about a dozen inquiries about the property. Out-of-town developers would like the land for student housing. Others are talking about housing mixed with office/retail.
The Talawanda Board of Education has set a minimum bid of $1.75 million, said Superintendent Phil Cagwin.
That's based on an appraisal two years ago plus inflation. Demolition costs are estimated at about $250,000.
The board decided to close Stewart after voters for the second time rejected a bond issue that would have paid to build a new elementary school and close Stewart. Teachers have complained of poor air quality there for years.
Students who had been attending Stewart will instead attend classes at Kramer or Maud Marshall elementary schools, each of which will house students in grades K-5.
To accommodate the students, the district is buying three modular units, each containing two classrooms. Kramer will get two of the units and Marshall will get one, Cagwin said.
Proceeds from the sale of Stewart will be used to pay for the modular units and possibly to expand both schools as called for in a master plan.
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