The Athens City School District is approaching a decision on its facilities master plan. Here's a summary of the events so far:
Single campus is off the table
The Facilities Steering Committee, a committee created by the board to develop a facilities master plan, made recommendations to the board Feb. 15, 2017 that included three options.
Option one was a single campus for the elementary schools. The single campus would have included three sections of space, or three separate buildings on one section of land. Ohio University offered 8 acres of The Ridges to the district for this space, according to a Sept. 22 Post report.
After the introduction of option one, various residents coined the term “megaschool" to describe option one. A group called “Small Schools for ACSD” collected nearly 400 signatures for a petition supporting small schools in the district.
The school board voted down option one on Oct. 18 because OU would not give the district enough land to fit a single campus, according to a previous Post report.
The two other options helped create the hybrid plan that would become “option four.” “Option four,” according to a Nov. 14 Post report, includes two pre-k to 3rd grade buildings and one building for upper elementary students.
Buildings considered to be in bad shape
In previous Post reports, Superintendent Thomas Gibbs and board member Roger Brown said the facilities were in need of repairs.
Brown told The Post on Aug. 31 that the board is trying to communicate that some of the buildings are beyond repair and that it would be better to build new buildings. Gibbs told The Post on Jan. 31 that some of the systems used in the schools have outlived their expectancy.
“We really just need to start to replace things before we get to that point where there is a negative impact on our day-to-day education of our students,” Gibbs said in a previous Post report.
At the most recent board meeting Feb. 6, board member Paul Grippa said he wanted to look into renovating rather than building new facilities.
Socio-economic integration is major goal
Board members, including Rusty Rittenhouse and Kim Goldsberry, have said they hope the facilities master plan will address socio-economic inequality.
In the Aug. 31 Post report, Rittenhouse said he viewed the potential new buildings as an opportunity to address long-standing problems in the community.
Goldsberry said a November Post report she believed “option four” would allow the schools to stay in the neighborhoods while addressing socio-economic issues within the district.
Both of those board members have come out in favor of “option four.”
Experts, including Kimberly Quick of the Century Foundation, said in November the plan would have a positive effect on the income disparity in the schools.
Quick said socio-economically mixed schools become middle-class schools. Middle-class schools are 22 times more likely to perform better than high-poverty schools, Quick said.
Renovations: Where and how much?
The board had a discussion at their Feb. 6 meeting to consider costs of renovating the elementary schools, middle school and the high school or building new facilities.
The presentation by Schorr Architects Inc., one of the architecture firms working with the district on its facilities master plan, said the total costs of three new elementary school buildings, renovation to the middle school and a new high school would total about $90 million.
East Elementary and Morrison Gordon Elementary were proposed to be the locations of the two pre-K to 3rd grade buildings. The Plains Elementary is proposed as the location of the 4th through at least 5th grade building.
The costs could decrease depending on the extent of renovations to either The Plains Elementary or Athens Middle School to accommodate sixth graders.
The next steps
Gibbs said in a Jan. 31 Post report the board needs to make a decision on “option four” by April 1 to have a bond issue on the ballot in November. The board discussed segmenting the projects into separate bond issues during the Feb. 6 board meeting.
The board has suggested segmenting the elementary project and adding that to the first bond issue. Each segment has to be at least $22 million dollars, according to a previous Post report.
The board will hold a regular meeting Feb. 15 in Athens High School to discuss further information.