Public strongly recommends $50 million rebuild of Ox Ridge school
DARIEN — A standing- room-only crowd at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night unanimously voiced its support for a $50 million proposed project to expand and rebuild Ox Ridge Elementary School.
According to Darien administrators, there are three options for the school, which was built in 1966 and is in need of major structural improvements. The plans vary in price from a $25 million renovation of the existing building, to a $40 million renovation plus classroom wing addition, to a $50 million full rebuild and expansion.
“Anyone who walks through Ox Ridge has to recognize the deficiencies of Ox Ridge as a facility, and we have an opportunity right now before us to improve it. Option one is quite frankly not an option; it really doesn’t do anything. Option two is a Band-Aid, a half measure,” resident Sharad Samy told the board. “Option three is really the only option.”
Over the course of the hourlong hearing, similar support was voiced, often followed by applause, for a plan that would see a total rebuild and expansion of the school to create 25 classrooms — up from 24 general education and four modular classrooms in the current design — and centralize the district’s Early Learning Program by adding 10 ELP classrooms, thus alleviating stress from Royle and Tokeneke, where three-quarters of ELP sections are housed.
The idea of rebuilding Ox Ridge was first mentioned in 2016, when the architectural firm KG & D was employed by the district to help draft a master plan. Addressing the structural deficiencies of the Ox Ridge building, consolidating the district’s Early Learning Program in one space, and removing modular classrooms were among the goals identified by the consultant.
Peter Orphanos, a resident and member of the RTM, wondered whether the board should go even further than the third, $50 million plan to compensate for unexpected enrollment, additional development in town or any other variable that might arise. Other parents and town residents said the new, more open design proposed in the third option would greatly improve the experience of students.
“I truly believe that option three will have a positive impact on mood and emotionality. More windows, more light, more space, more comfort. This will all improve emotional developing. This will help to improve interactions with peers and socialization overall,” said Mary Elizabeth Garvey, who has one child in kindergarten at Ox Ridge.
According to Board of Education Chairwoman Tara Ochman, the board will discuss the Ox Ridge proposals at its May 8 meeting.
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