April 26, 2019

$4.5 Million Aquatic Center Set to Open May 25

Talawanda High School plans to expand its out-of-the-classroom education with a new STEM bus to help bring science, technology, engineering and math studies out into the district.

The project started with Joan Stidham, Talawanda High School’s director of teaching and learning. After she retires this school year, Lindsey Gregg will be replacing her and plans to finish the project.

Talawanda’s STEM bus program is being modeled after Sycamore School District’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) bus program. Photo courtesy of Karen Naber of Sycamore School District.

The bus, donated by Petermann Ltd., a Cincinnati-based school bus operator, will be equipped with Ipad’s, Chromebooks, TV’s, and many other tools to teach children the value of STEM -- and art, Gregg said.

The activities on the bus, will be similar to what students have at school for building, coding, engineering, science, math activities and manipulatives. But the bus is projected to operate after school two to three days a week, and on select weekends.  Snacks and homework help will also be available, said Stidham. This will provide extended time with the materials found at school, but more importantly bringing these and additional supports into the communities where students live, Stidham said.

Gregg said she plans to park the bus “wherever we can find a spot for people to come to the advertised times. She said they are considering parking the bus in uptown Oxford, as well as in outlying communities within the Talawanda district, such as Summerville.

The inside of the bus will be outfitted with teaching and demonstration stations for science, technology, engineering and math, similar to this one used by Sycamore High School. Photo courtesy of Karen Naber of Sycamore School District.

The bus is being constructed with donations and volunteers. It will take about $60,000 to completely repurpose and outfit the vehicle, Stidham said.  

High school art students plan to paint it and students from Butler Tech will do the necessary welding and fabricating of the educational stations inside. Teachers from the high school will handle the educational programs once the bus is on the road. Talawanda plans have the bus up and running by January 2020, said Gregg.

“It’s strictly a volunteer thing, we have instructional leaders and coaches, a stem coordinator, so we foresee our curriculum team of volunteers of teachers leading the charge on this” Gregg said.

The school plans to target the age group of K-5th graders, but all students interested in the activities will be welcome to participate, Gregg said.

Gregg said the Talawanda bus was inspired by a similar project at Sycamore High School in suburban Cincinnati.

In addition to its mobile work, Sycamore occasionally incorporates the bus into the in-school  curriculum by parking it outside the school during regular school hours and allowing classes to come aboard and be taught around the bus’ activities, Gregg said. She said Talawanda may do that too after first seeing how well the bus does away from the school.

The new Oxford Aquatic Center is on schedule and on budget for its planned May 25 opening, said Casey Wooddell, city parks and recreation director.

“There’s a lot of work still to do, but the project’s coming along. We’re on budget, and we’re hopeful that we’re on schedule,” Wooddell said.

Located in Oxford Community Park, at 6801 Fairfield Road, the complex will replace the old pool, which was in service for nearly 45 years at 6025 Fairfield Road. The old facility was outdated and leaked water.

The new aquatic center is almost double the size of its predecessor. It boasts a large slide designed for individuals 48 inches and taller; a multi-person, racing, “family” slide for children shorter than 48 inches; a kiddie pool for toddlers and a lazy river.

It also will include an eight-lane, 25-meter pool, which will be open to anyone, but is also going to be the home of the Oxford Swim and Dive Team.

Aside from the aquatic features, the complex will include an indoor space, an artificial turf area, a permanent picnic pavilion, and a party deck on an island in the middle of the lazy river.

The new Oxford Aquatic Center is on track to open on May 25. Photo by Coburn Gillies

The city budgeted a maximum of $4.8 million for the project, being built by Wilcon Corp., and so far, costs are estimated at $4.5 million.

“There’s been some change-orders and some additions that we’ve made along the way to improve the facility, as well as some donations,” Wooddell said.

Donations have been made for different facets of the project and its operational capabilities. One area that has drawn many donors is the establishment of a five-level, tiered swim lesson program.

“Swim lessons will definitely be a focus of what we’re doing. We’ve been given about $5,000 in donations for this summer,” Wooddell said. “We’re offering free swim lessons for select levels all summer.”

City council member Edna Southard, who’s a member of the Recreation Board, has been involved with this project throughout its duration, and even helped facilitate the donation process.

“We have helped with the planning,” Southard said. “We recommended setting up the account with the Oxford Community Foundation so we could accept donations.”

As the new pool takes shape, local residents are expressing excitement about the state-of-the-art facility’s official opening.
“Most of us are pretty excited. We’ve been watching it be built, and it’ll be a great place for kids to swim,” said Jessica Greene, director of Enjoy Oxford, the city’s visitors’ bureau. “I have kids, and we’ve always had pool passes. I think it’ll be a fun spot in the summertime for Oxford families.”

Other city officials agreed.

City council member David Prytherech said such facilities are important to Oxford families. “The pool was integral to my family growing up and the new pool is going to serve a whole new generation of kids.”