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Tennis, anyone?

District eyes courts for OHS

February 02, 2011 - Oxford Community Schools might get its tennis courts after all.

After dropping plans for the courts from the original bond, the district has instructed Ben Schneider, the Senior Project Manager from Granger Construction, to seek out alternative bids for tennis courts when seeking bids for site improvements at Oxford High School.

The courts would only be installed if bids they sent out for high school projects came back lower than they estimated.

"The intent is if there are additional monies in the high school budget after all the planned improvements are completed, it would be funded....from that same budget," Schneider said.

The district would look to build eight courts at an estimated cost of $40,000 each (total $320,000) where the freshman football team practices at the north end of the high school.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Tim Loock said seeking alternative bids is "standard practice."

"You bid them as an alternate so you know how much the cost would be," Loock said. "Then you know whether or not you can afford to do it."

Even though the courts were not specifically mentioned in the bond voters passed in November 2009, Loock indicated the district could pursue them because of ballot language stating "for purposes of...constructing, equipping, developing and improving athletic facilities."

Schneider noted the courts will be looked at after they have the second phase of construction secured.

"We need to make sure that all the planned construction is accounted for, bid and contracted first, then we can see where the dollars line up; then we make decisions at that point," he added.

Schneider planned for the bids going out at the end of February, with the Board of Education reviewing the bids by the end of March.

Loock said the courts would not be installed if the savings from the returning bids were not significant enough.

The district included plans for tennis courts in the original $70 million bond, which voters turned down in February 2009. They were scrapped when the district scaled back the bond to $32.735 million, which passed in November 2009.

According to Athletic Director Mike Watson, Oxford is the one of the largest districts in the state to not have on-site tennis courts.

When asked about the possibility, Watson said it would benefit both students and the community.

"Tennis courts in every community are such a community use item, it really overshadows everything else you would do with those courts," Watson said. "Between PE (physical education) and community use, whether it be through parks and rec or (people) just wanting to get out and enjoy the sunshine and play tennis, that is really a great benefit to the community."

He said multiple people have asked where the courts are, only to be disappointed to learn the school district did not have any and they had to use the courts at Seymour Lake Park.

The courts would also allow for the possibility of adding boys and girls tennis teams as athletic offerings.

"Not every student wants to play football or soccer," Watson said. "It just provides another opportunity to enjoy being a student athlete."

Even if the district does save enough money, before a tennis program could be established, the school board and administration would have to see if there was enough interest among students to sustain a tennis program, Watson said.

He added they would also have to figure out the additional cost to the athletic budget and how they would come up with additional money for the tennis program, whether it be through boosters or school board funds.

"There are many different ways we could go, but there will be that added cost to have that tennis team - transportation, supplies, equipment, bussing and all the normal things that other teams have to pony up," Watson said.

Watson said there had been past interest in forming a tennis team.

If the courts fall through, the administration could form a tennis cooperation with another school in the area, like the ski program does with Holly High School.

But Watson feels that isn't in the best interest of students.

"The most desirable thing is to have your own school based program...it helps kids identify with the school and feel identified by the school," Watson said.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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