The Athens City School District Board of Education is facing a minor roadblock as they decide where to place sixth graders after discussions at their Tuesday night meeting.

The discussion of “option four” had always included two pre-K to 3rd grade buildings, but now the board is finalizing whether they want the sixth grade to be included in the middle school or be part of The Plains Elementary location. The Plains Elementary is the elementary campus being proposed as the location for the fourth through at least fifth grade location. 

Board member Sean Parsons said he believes that having the sixth grade be included in the middle school could work but it all relies on implementation.

“We need to be adopting or supporting a true middle school model rather than a junior high model,” Parsons said. 

Board member Paul Grippa said including sixth graders in the current building configuration would get rid of the middle school concept. 

“I would have a difficult time with the idea of just shoving them in there and saying 'make space in the building that exists now,'” Grippa said. “You'll have to abandon any idea of a middle school concept and just have everybody in classrooms all day.”

The two proposals the board is considering for the sixth grade would involve making an addition to the middle school or to The Plains Elementary. Tony Schorr of Schorr Architects Inc. and Mike Dingeldein of Community Design Alliance will be evaluating space in The Plains building proposal as well as in the middle school.

Schorr estimated the costs of the renovation of The Plains and the extension would be about $14.5 million. The costs for a possible extension to the middle school, as well as the extension to The Plains Elementary, cannot be completely confirmed until Schorr and Dingeldein could confirm the new estimates. 

The board also discussed segmenting projects, which would mean the board would approve projects in certain groups at a time. Each segment has to be a minimum of $22 million as required by the state, Superintendent Thomas Gibbs said. 

Gibbs said the longer the board delays the decisions about the facilities, the less money they could receive from the state, as the district is looking wealthier on paper. 

“The more you kick the can, so to speak, not only is the cost of construction going to go up but your percentage match is likely to decrease,” Gibbs said. “You may get to the point where you say 'well, we're not going to work the (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission).'”

The board will discuss their options further at their regular body meeting Feb. 15. 

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