The Evening Sentinel, Friday evening, December 17, 1948

Dedication, Cornerstone Ceremony at New School Tomorrow Marks New Era in Education in Town of Oxford

The dedication ceremony at the new Oxford centralized school tomorrow at 2 p.m. will be a welcome and satisfying close to the efforts of scores of the town's citizens to procure a modern building for their children.  The program has been planned to commemorate these efforts and to give a  comprehensive picture of the steps which made the new building a reality.

The dedication ceremony will open outdoors where Rev. E. G. Zellars, pastor of the Congregational Church will give the invocation. Judge E. E. Seeley, chairman of the centralized school building committee, will lay the cornerstone, giving a list of the contents placed within it and the Rev. E. Soule, priest-in-charge of St. Peter's and Christ Episcopal churches, will give the dedication prayer.

The assembled people will then go into the new auditorium where the second part of the program will take place.  This will open with the singing of "America."  William Schreiber, former chairman of the board of education and member of the board for 20 years, will give a history of the educational system in Oxford.  Judge Seeley will tell of the steps and effort which went into building the new school from the time the planning commission was set up at a town meeting, Nov. 1, 1943.

First Selectman Frederick R. Bice, Jr. will be presented by the keys to the school by Judge Seeley.  Mr. Bice will then present the keys to Franklyn Sanford, chairman of the board of education, signifying that the board of education has been given use of the new building.

Message from P.T. A.

Mrs. John Smedley, president, will give a message from the Parent-Teachers association. Principal speaker will be Mrs. Helen L. Gilbert, of Norwich, a member of the state board of education. She will speak on "The Future of Education in Connecticut as Seen by the State Board of Education."

Rev. Albert A. Callahan, pastor of St. Augustine's church, Seymour, will invoke the benediction and the program will close with the singing of"America the Beautiful."

Hubert Stoddard, member of the school building committee will preside during the program. The committee in charge of the ceremonies includes Mr. Stoddard, Mrs. Smedley, Mr. Sanford and Principal Richard E. Wilkinson.

Among the items which will be sealed in the cornerstone are the architect's specifications, deed to the school, a program of tomorrow's affair, a scroll containing the names of the building committee members, various papers relating to transactions concerning the new school and a copy of tonight's Evening Sentinel.

Following the program, the townspeople will be given an opportunity to inspect the new school and to talk with the teachers who will be in their respective classrooms. Refreshments will be served by the P.T.A.

New School's History

Although specific planning for the new school was begun only about five years ago, various citizens had made several attempts over the years to have such a building erected.  The board of education had gone on record as long as 20 years ago as favoring a new school for the town.

At a town meeting Nov. 1, 1943, it was voted to set up a planning committee to study the town's needs for improvements and to report back at another meeting. One of the primary items this committee took up was building a modern school which would house all of Oxford's elementary grade children. The original planning committee included Judge Seeley, chairman; Frank L. Allen, secretary; Robert Z. Hawkins; Representative R. Harold Treat; Merwin Terrell; Mr. Stoddard, Charles Pope and Frances Seccombe.

Funds to purchase the site of the new school in Oxford center were asked by the committee at a town meeting in August, 1944. In October, the committee was voted $1,000 for preliminary work connected with buying the land. At a later town meeting it was voted to purchase the site for $5,000.

After hearing such a recommendation from the planning committee at a town meeting April 23, 1945, the townspeople voted to set aside each year an amount equal to two mills on the annual grand list to be used for constructing a school when such action was begun.  Hope of a new school in the near future became even brighter in June, 1945 when the state legislature voted to make funds available to towns for school purposes under certain conditions.

The planning committee submitted its final report at a town meeting July 30, 1945, when it recommended that a school building committee be set up and this committee apply to the state legislature for financial aid as made available under the new act. This was accepted and the new committee was named from the floor.

This committee directed all activities concerning construction of the new school. Its members included Judge Seeley, chairman; Mr. Stoddard, vice chairman; Mrs. Seccombe, secretary; Mr. Sanford, chairman of the board of education; First Selectman Bice, Third Selectman Charles Pope, and Mr. Terrell.

This new committee entered into contract on August 2 of that year with Brown and Von Beren, Inc., architects, to draw plans for the proposed building that would meet specification made by the state so that funds could be obtained to aid in the construction.

In a report to the town, May 6, 1946, the building committee stated that a tentative grant from the state of $35,700 had been obtained, subject to certain terms set by the Connecticut public school building commission and the proviso that construction must start within a year. Later the state made available a maximum sum of $50,000
to Oxford, effective Oct. 1, 19047.

The building committee asked for bids for construction of the new school and received four, the lowest $226,000 and the highest $360,000.  These were analyze and the two lowest bidders were asked to submit other bids with certain economies taken since the building commission felt the town could not afford even the lowest bid submitted.

The lower revised base bid was $208,804.  Plans for town offices in the new building and a colonial tower were dropped from the plans in order to make the lower price possible.  The townspeople at a meeting Oct. 10, 1947, voted to instruct the building committee to accept this lowest bid which was made by Fusco and Amatrudo of New Haven, general contractors.  Work began at the school site at the end of October.

The town also authorized issuing of bonds in the amount of $190,000, to be paid off over a 20 year period to help finance the new building.  The board of finance was instructed to receive bids for the bonds. Three bonding companies bid and the lowest bid, received from Day, Stoddard and Williams of 1.9 per cent, was accepted.

The V and H trucking company of Seymour was awarded the grading contract. The Stephen B. Church company provided an artesian well for the new school free of charge. Recent tests by the state of th well water indicated that the water is excellent in quality.

Recently $3,500 was voted by the town to the building committee to complete grading and landscaping.

Total Cost over $250,000

The total cost of the new school was $256,412.92, of which $239,712.92 was for general contracts and the architect's bill and $16,700 for grading, roads and similar items. The school is being paid for by the $190,000 bond issue, the $50,000 grant and the money accumulated from the two mills of the grand list set aside each year.

Classes in the new school started Nov. 15. The kitchen and auditorium have not been ready for use yet, but will be open tomorrow. A total of 230 elementary school children attend the new centralized school.

The school itself is an eight classroom building of masonry construction complete with work benches, cabinets and a sink in each room. It also includes a teachers' room, principal's office, health clinic, toilet rooms, kitchen and a large auditorium and gymnasium which will also serve as a cafeteria.

Since its completion the school has been visited by a number of  educators who have pronounced it one of the most excellent they have seen.  

The building committee also purchased folding chairs for the auditorium and teachers' desks. A large amount of furniture was taken from the old schools for use in the new building. However, many of the desks were so old and so much new equipment was needed that the Parent-Teacher association was appealed to for aid in raising funds for this purpose.

P.T.A. Raises Funds

This organization responded energetically by setting up a special equipment committee to solicit funds and equipment.  A total of $3,531 in cash and equipment has been received, of which $1,557.50 was cash, and $1,973.50 was estimated value of the equipment. Materials for the health room amounting to over $400 have not yet arrived at the school.

Kenneth Linke was chairman of the equipment committee. Mrs. Kenneth Linke was secretary, and Mrs. Harrison E. Miles, Treasures, while T. Alton Rebe was in charge of publicity.

The new Oxford centralized school replaces six old one- and two-room schools scattered about the town, five of which were still being used this fall until the new school opened. With the exception of the Riverside school, these buildings had no indoor toilets or running  water.

Because of these conditions, a number of educational advantages which most school children have today were not available to Oxford youngsters. A correlated system could not be used by the teachers since they were widely separated.  N ow that they are under one roof with the guidance of a principal, methods of teaching reading and other things can be more standardized so the children will not be confused going from one teacher to another.

Better health facilities will be available. With a health clinic in the building the school nurse's work can be put to more efficient and effective use. The school doctor has agreed to visit the shool in the event of an epidemic or large number of absences to check the returning children, a service which could not be performed when the schools were scattered over the town. The P.T.A. has obtained dental chair from the state for installation at the school whereas previously the children had to be taken out of town for dental care.

A sports program will now be available to the children who previously have often felt left out when they reached high school because the city children, with better recreational facilities, were further advance. The auditorium will be used for assembly programs that will benefit the entire school.  One of the most important aspects of the new school will be that a hot lunch program may now be started because of the kitchen and cafeteria facilities.

Because of the centralized system, the board of education has been able to hire a music teacher to visit the school one day a week.

But equally as important as the increased advantages to the elementary children is the fact that the new school will have community-wide value. Its facilities will be open to high school and post high school groups for sports and social activities. The board of education and centralized school building committee have expressed hopes that the new building will be a source of pride to the townspeople for many years to come.