Owensboro Innovation Academy will soon be relocating, according to officials with Owensboro Public Schools. OIA will be moving into the former Owensboro Middle School South campus building on South Griffith Avenue, where OIA and iMiddle will collaborate in forming OPS’ first innovation campus.
The relocation will be implemented by the beginning of next school year in August 2020.
The decision to uproot OIA, currently located at the Centre for Business and Research at 1010 Allen Street, was made as OPS board members looked at the cost effectiveness of moving into a building already owned by the school system. Superintendent Nick Brake said OPS will save a half-million dollars per year by moving out of the Allen Street building and into the South Griffith location.
“Financially, it’s a no-brainer,” said Board Chair Jeremy Edge.
The Allen Street building is owned by real estate developer Malcolm Bryant Corporation, and Brake said the company has been working with OPS on strategizing an exit plan for the move.
It wasn’t just the cost savings that enticed OPS to relocate, but the school district’s vision of creating a sustainable innovation campus that would continue its success long-term. By bringing the middle school and high school to the same location, Brake said the synergy between both schools can be further executed.
“They’re already collaborating and doing projects together,” he said. “We’re ready to begin the process in earnest to create a unified innovation campus.”
Though OIA and iMiddle will function at the same site, Brake said the schools will physically be separate from one another, with separate lockdowns.
OPS has been considering the move for some time and officials say the majority of the feedback they’ve received from parents and staff has been positive. A couple of parents expressed concern over the middle schoolers’ close proximity to high schoolers, though Brake said those concerns have been laid to rest.
“There will be some common use — the gymnasium and cafeteria — but no co-mingling of high school students and middle school students,” he said.
One of OIA’s staples has been in its design — flexible, open classrooms, high ceilings and, as Brake described it, a “Google environment.” OIA’s new campus will have that same “edgy” design, Brake said.
iMiddle will move into its location in January 2020 and then the construction crew can move over to OIA’s space and begin work that should last until the beginning of next school year.
Originally designed as an incubator site for several businesses, the center where OIA currently resides, brought safety concerns with the other entities housed in the Malcolm Bryant building. One of those businesses was Dalisha’s — a dine-in bakery and lunch cafe that was edged out of the building after learning the business could no longer share their bathrooms with OIA. Without a bathroom to use, Dalisha’s couldn’t serve food to customers due to health code violations.
According to Owner Alisha Hardison, Dalisha’s was originally paying rent to the City of Owensboro, but began paying rent to OPS once OIA moved in. Hardison said she knew about OIA’s plans to relocate before most others knew, and that she wasn’t surprised by the news.
“We loved that space, but I had to come to terms with it. It is what it is, I guess,” Hardison said. “In the moment of all that going down, it was upsetting, but I’m much better about it now. I’m even grateful it happened.”
Brake said OIA’s location had created a strong relationship between the school and Brescia. With hopes that relationship will continue after the move, Brake said he believes a strong relationship could be created between OIA and Kentucky Wesleyan College as well.
“We could also partner with Wesleyan as it’s right across the street,” he said.
Owensboro Times was unable to reach representatives from Malcolm Bryant Corporation for comment.