The Athens City School District Board of Education is finalizing details, including the possible cost, of "option four" after a presentation of a facilities master plan proposal at the board's meeting Jan. 11.

Tony Schorr of Schorr Architects Inc. presented the board with a proposal that had a high price tag for the different projects the board has been considering. The total costs for the new elementary schools and high school as well as a renovated middle school would total about $90 million, $60 million of which the district would provide, according to the proposal. 

According to a previous Post report, the price tag was expected to be about $80 million, $10 million less than the cost presented by Schorr. Sean Parsons, recently added to the board, said he believes the number most likely increased because the type of renovation to the middle school changed.

“They were more looking at more of a light renovation that they were calling warm, safe and dry for the middle school,” Parsons said, referring to his understanding of the board's discussion before he joined. “This came in with a much broader, more comprehensive renovation to the middle school than had been really previously discussed.”

The proposal also identified the three elementary school campuses — The Plains Elementary, Morrison Gordon Elementary and East Elementary — that would be used for the two Pre-K to third-grade buildings and one fourth- to sixth-grade building. West Elementary, the only elementary campus that was proposed to not be used for the new buildings, was expected to be taken offline, board members and Thomas Gibbs, superintendent of Athens City School District, said. 

“By and large that site is challenging,” Gibbs said. “It has some special challenges in addition to the topography, and it being not just in a tightly packed area, but it's also bounded on the backside by an AEP transmission site.”

Kim Goldsberry, who just started her second term on the board, is in favor of using that space as athletic space for Athens Middle School. Gibbs said the board has not made a final decision on what to do with that space, but the district would still own it. 

“The board members want to communicate to the community that those sites are not going to be turned into more student housing. They're not just going to sit there and decay,” Gibbs said.  

Beyond the part of the proposal for the new and renovated buildings, Schorr also presented locally funded initiatives that would not be covered by the state. 

Included was a mandatory locally funded initiative for the seating area in the auditorium of the middle school, which the state required. If the district completes a major renovation of the middle school, the total cost for the auditorium would be about $650,000. 

Gibbs said the state would not allow the district to bring the majority of the building up to standard without bringing the rest. The state will not provide any funding for the seating area of the middle school auditorium, though. 

"They apply a dollar amount per square foot and say 'you're going to have to do this on your own, but you are required to do that or else you don't get our money,'" Gibbs said. 

Locally funded initiatives are projects that the district must fund on their own through bond issues or capital campaigns — campaigns of donors who fund specific projects.   

Gibbs said that not all of the renovations would be included in one bond issue. 

“You put together a master plan, and the master plan is basically over time this is what we want to do,” Gibbs said. “That doesn't mean you have to put all of it on one bond issue.” 

The board will need to have a master plan filed with the state by April 1 to have a bond issue on the November ballot, Gibbs said. The board has previously missed that deadline, and Gibbs believes there are facilities that have issues that need to be addressed soon. 

“(Some of the systems) well outlived their expectancy, and 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. 

The board will hold a special meeting Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Athens High School’s auditorium to further discuss the proposal.


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