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Building issues force virtual academy to close, move to high school



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April 03, 2013 - After a state inspector found issues with the Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA) building, located at 3 S. Washington St., operations have been moved to Oxford High School for the remainder of the school year, according to Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling.

"They told us we had some compliance issues," explained Skilling. "I don't know what they are, but they are going to get back to us with a report."

"When we occupied that space for the virtual school, we didn't do any work to the space at all. All we did was move in, put some tables and chairs in and hang some curtains," he continued. "As a result of that, we were remiss not to contact the state to come inspect it before we occupied (the space), which is something we know to do, but we didn't do that."

Had the school district used an architect to do some work on the building, a state inspection would have been part of the process.

"Ultimately, we're responsible," admitted Skilling. "As superintendent of the school district, I was responsible to make sure that space was inspected prior to occupancy and it just never crossed my mind."

The schools were given until March 29 to find a new location, which is why they found a spot at the high school.

Meanwhile, they are going to look for another location next year, however Skilling emphasized they "will not pursue anything in the downtown area."

"I said at a DDA (Downtown Development Authority) meeting that our goal is not to occupy more real-estate (in the) downtown area," he said. "We know we need to move to a different location because I have a better understanding now of the impact we have. It was positive, but it also hurt some of the retailers who want more retail stores downtown."

However, Skilling said they would have to find someone to sublease their location at 3 S. Washington St.

"We have to talk with the person we are leasing from and figure it out," he added. "It's our responsibility (to find someone to sublease that space) and I don't know how long our contract is for."

According to Communications Coordinator Linda Lewis, the 3. S. Washington lease goes through 2015.

While they have moved out of 3 S. Washington, plans to keep 5 S. Washington for OVA offices next year are still in tact. Skilling said they will also sublease part of 5 S. Washington to the Beijing Channel Consulting International Education Group.

"They are the ones we partnered with to host international students here. They are also the partner with Oakland University to start teaching the internship program," he said. "They established a U.S. company two years ago, where their office was in East Lansing, but because they're doing more work in our area – and also looking to invest in this area – they needed office space closer to where they are doing most of their work and business, so I offered to sublease space in our new virtual school office space."

While the project on 5 S. Washington is not done yet, Skilling said they will make sure there is a state inspection conducted before they occupy the space.

"That one will also have local inspection, too, because it's downtown commercial space and we're leasing it," added Skilling. "If we owned it, it would just be the state (inspection)."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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