The construction of two new school buildings in the Athens City School District is moving forward as planned in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tom Gibbs, ACSD superintendent, and various school board members have said the project has not seen any delays and is expected to be completed on time.
The buildings will be for pre-K through third grade classes.
“Our current elementary school facilities pose many challenges, with outdated heating and air conditioning systems, poor ventilation, lack of natural light in many classrooms, plumbing concerns, etc.,” Gibbs said in an email.
Gibbs said construction employees are following standard COVID-19 protocol on site, including hand washing, physical distancing, wearing masks and not reporting to work if they are experiencing symptoms.
Gibbs said the biggest challenges have been from the soil at the building sites.
“We had to spend some additional money to add lime to the soil at Morrison-Gordon and to dig out a portion of the East ES (Elementary School) site and backfill in with stone to assure the soils would be stable enough,” he said in an email.
The project is scheduled to be done mid-September 2021, Gibbs said. ACSD should have occupancy approval July 2021 to start using the buildings for the next school year.
“The new configuration will allow us to more equitably distribute our student population based on socio-economic status,” he said in an email. “Research in this area demonstrates that having less than 50% of families living in poverty attending a specific school results in better academic performance for all students.”
Gibbs said local voters approved a $60.5 million dollar bond levy for the project, $35 million of which has already been allocated.
Sean Parsons, ACSD School Board president, said there will be many improvements that will be made within these new buildings.
“This (construction) begins to solve a lot of the issues we have in our aging, failing school buildings,” Parsons said. “They're going to be healthier, they're going to be much more well lit, they're going to be much more energy efficient, so we’ll have that benefit for us.”
Parsons said it will also change the way the school district is organized by having two pre-K through third grade buildings instead of four kindergarten through sixth grade buildings.
“It’s just going to be more efficient and fully upgraded, and be the type of spaces that our kids deserve to learn in,” he said.
Parsons said there have also been minimal complaints from the community regarding construction and other than the occasional weather delay, everything is going as planned.
“We’re coming in safely, too ... we don’t want kids to be injured during construction,” he said.
Kim Goldsberry, ACSD school board member, said all of the union workers that have been hired for the project have been mostly locals in the region. Goldsberry said those that don’t return home at night have been staying in local hotels.
“There were a couple days that there was some rain,” she said. “But they worked on Saturdays so that they were able to catch up.”
Goldsberry also spoke to the improvements that would be made in the new buildings, including larger classrooms and better ventilation.
“On the East site, there are water retention tanks that are buried in two different locations of the site,” she said. “So when we have a significant rainfall, all of that water isn’t just going into the streets on the east side of town and flooding our city’s infrastructure. It’s being housed in those retention tanks and then slowly let into the city’s water filtration system.”