Athens residents gave input regarding size and sustainability in the new elementary buildings at Thursday’s Athens City School District school board meeting. 

Athens community members directed questions towards Superintendent Tom Gibbs and Michael Dingeldein of Community Design Alliance (CDA). CDA is a design firm partnered with Schorr Architects, Inc. for the planning of the new elementary buildings at the current locations of East and Morrison-Gordon Elementary Schools. 

One focus of the public input portion of the meeting was about the degree of sustainability the new buildings will reach. By the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, standards, new school buildings must be built to at least the LEED Silver standard, but some Athens residents feel the district can do better. 

The Youth Climate Action Leadership Team, or YCAT, is a club made up of ACSD students dedicated to prioritizing sustainable design in the school district. YCAT gave a presentation on the benefits of building the new schools to be net-zero energy usage, meaning the building produces as much energy as it uses. 

Other people echoed the YCAT team by expressing skepticism about Schorr Architects’ dedication to sustainable building. However, it is still too early in the design process to determine what level of sustainability the new buildings can be built to, Dingeldein said. 

Dingeldein also brought up other concerns that will be addressed during the design process, including the issue of square footage in the new schools. 

According to the ACSD facilities committee providing input for construction, the baseline ratio is 20 students per classroom, but the standard OFCC ratio is 24 to 25 students per classroom. However, this ratio could change as planning continues. Due to this design of the new Pre-K through third grade buildings will each theoretically be about 4,000 square-feet over the OFCC recommended size for a school of 435 students. Any additional square-footage over the OFCC recommendation will not be paid for by the state and would be paid for by the district. 

Additional space will have to be found during planning to keep the preferred class size in the new buildings. This would include building first through third grade classrooms to be 810 square-feet rather than the standard 900 square-feet.

Following a tour of recently built elementary schools in the Lancaster City School District, teachers expressed that 810 square-feet is more than adequate classroom space, School Board President Kim Goldsberry said. 

Due to its larger gym and already small classrooms, The Plains Elementary renovation will be much easier to plan, Dingeldein said. 

During the meeting, the board also approved motions to sell several school buses and other transportation trucks, and also approved to purchase two additional buses. One school bus was also donated to the Athens City Fire Department to be used for training purposes. 

A motion was also approved for the purchase of a home directly next to East Elementary School, which will be demolished to add additional land to the lot. 

The next school board meeting will be on March 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Athens High School.