The Athens City School District Board of Education officially approved a timeline on Jan. 17 for the district’s rebuilding project.
The timeline for the rebuilding project, proposed by ACSD Superintendent Tom Gibbs, was created in partnership with Schorr Architects for construction of the elementary schools.
The timeline breaks the construction of the elementary schools into two phases. Construction and renovations of Athens Middle School and Athens High School will come after the construction and renovations of the current elementary schools.
Phase one, which is planned to take place during winter 2019-2020 through summer 2021, will involve the construction of two new preschool through third grade elementary buildings at the current locations of Morrison-Gordon Elementary School and East Elementary School.
Phase two involves a complete renovation and addition to The Plains Elementary School, which will house grades four through six.
The first two phases of the construction project will be locally funded. Planning for the rebuilding of the high school will not begin until the school board receives the portion of the cost of the project from the state, Sean Parsons, ACSD school board member, said.
“So we have $60.5 million that the people in our district voted to participate in, but the entire project is about $90 million, and the state’s portion will come in the next couple years,” Parsons said.
The current Morrison-Gordon Elementary building will remain open during construction of the new building. East Elementary will be demolished before construction of the new building because of the size of the property.
According to the plan presented by Gibbs, the demolition of East Elementary is set to begin following the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Once it has started, the demolition will take up to four months to complete, Tony Schorr, principal architect and president of Schorr Architects, said.
In the short term, the two-phase plan will address existing concerns with large class sizes at the current East and West Elementary Schools, Gibbs said in an email to parents in the district. In the long term, the plan will allow both preschool to third grade schools to open at the same time, ensuring equality for all elementary students during the transition to the new grade configuration.
During the interim period, students and teachers from East Elementary will be temporarily relocated. Kindergarten through fifth grade students and teachers will be relocated to West Elementary, where there will be four teachers per grade level with class sizes between 20 and 23 students, Gibbs said.
“It just so happens that at every grade level except one, we either already have four teachers or someone is retiring,” Gibbs said. “So there is one person that (will) get displaced … (but) there are other jobs that will have to get posted that they are licensed for.”
Currently, there is only one English Learner (EL) certified teacher at East Elementary, but the plan is for another EL position to be created by the beginning of the next school year. It is just one aspect of the larger theme behind the grade reconfiguration, which is meant to ensure educational equality between the two new preschool to third grade elementary schools, Gibbs said.
“What’s going to be a great advantage of the new arrangement is we want to have those services at every building, and so regardless of wherever you live you attend with your fellow students that are in your attendance area, and you don’t have to move from school to school based on what services are (available),” Gibbs said.
Six additional classroom spaces will be created at West Elementary by repurposing space within the building as well as by using temporary classroom spaces if they are needed.
Sixth grade students at the current East and West elementaries will go to the middle school one year early, and stay for both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. However, sixth students will remain on the later daily schedule, will not attend classes with seventh and eighth grade students, and will have separate lunch and recess as well as art, music and physical education classes.