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Plans for Christian school at OUMC fall through



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August 14, 2013 - Too little time, too little money and too many regulatory hoops to jump through put the kibosh on plans to move a new Christian school into the Oxford United Methodist Church (OUMC) and open it this fall.

"We wanted to make it happen. We just couldn't pull it off," said Charlie Garrard, chairman of the church trustees and a voting member of the church council.

"There were just too many things that had to be done. We wanted to see it happen. We thought it would be good for the community and good for the church. It's just a shame we couldn't do it."

In early July, the church council agreed to negotiate a lease to provide space to Breyleigh Christian School, a new tuition-based private institution that would have served K-8 students of all denominations.

OUMC was going to rent the school approximately 5,200 square feet of existing space to house a maximum of 80 students.

The school was planning to open this fall, but Garrard explained that two months simply wasn't enough time to satisfy all the state's requirements and have the necessary construction work done to meet the fire code requirements for a school.

"We knew from Day One that time was going to be of the essence," explained OUMC Trustee Barry Moser. "There are a lot of things that are required to house either a public or private school that aren't necessarily requirements when a church is built and using its classrooms."

"Even the guy at the state said they know it's a tedious process to go through, but it has to be done. We understand that (it's) for the sake of kids' safety," he added.

Both Moser and Garrard noted that Breyleigh wasn't counting on having to fulfill state requirements.

They said the school was operating under the mistaken impression that because it wouldn't be educating preschoolers, there was no state involvement.

"That's not the case," Moser said.

For example, Garrard said the state required that it be provided with a full set of as-built drawings depicting the area of the church where the school would have been housed.

"We don't have those," he said, noting that part of OUMC was built in the 1960s. "I don't know what happened to them."

In order to satisfy that requirement, they would have had to hire either an architect or engineer to create a set of as-built prints.

"It would have taken a while and it would have been very expensive," Garrard said. "The state needed (those drawings) before they would even look at the church to see what improvements had to be made."

Even after the prints were submitted, Garrard indicated it would have been four to six weeks before an on-site inspection could have occurred due to the state's "backlog."

"They said this is their busy season," said Moser, who noted, "the state was cooperative and they sent us the information we needed."

Once the state had determined the type of building modifications necessary to meet the fire code, a contractor would have been needed to do the work.

This would have added to the timeline and cost money that apparently Breyleigh didn't have.

The agreement was any necessary building modifications and improvements were to be paid for by the school.

"I'm sure they have a very limited budget," Moser said. "We did not ask them what their budget was, but it was obvious that any of these costs would have exceeded what they were prepared to undertake."

Garrard said he was under the impression the school just didn't receive the support it was counting on.

"There was a limited amount of parents willing to commit," he said. "There wasn't enough time and resources to do the job."

Garrard noted OUMC was really hoping that housing a school would "make it hum" with activity and new members. "We'll still work on making it hum, but it's not going to hum with a school at this point," he said.

"There are many other ministries or avenues that the church will be looking at and taking (to help it grow)," Moser added.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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