Athens City School District, or ACSD, is demolishing West Elementary School, which will be replaced with new soccer fields.
In 2018, a levy was placed on the ballot for that election cycle to demolish the school, among other demolition and renovation suggestions. Voters passed the levy, and the demotion is based on its poor condition of the building.
“Most of our buildings were designated as being recommended for replacement as opposed to renovated,” ACSD Superintendent Tom Gibbs wrote in an email.
The school officially closed in June 2022 and is currently vacant. Plans to replace the buildings with soccer fields are in the works, Gibbs said.
Students who previously went to West Elementary School were placed in other schools within the district following the closure of West.
The students who formerly attended West Elementary School and are in preschool through third grade were moved to either East Elementary School or Morrison-Gordon Elementary School.
“There are identified boundaries for these two schools and students are assigned to one or the other based on their address. Parents may apply for open-enrollment to attend the other building,” Gibbs wrote in an email.
Students who are in fourth through sixth grade are now attending The Plains Elementary School, which is the new Intermediate School. All three of those schools were previously rebuilt or renovated.
The soccer fields that are going to replace West Elementary School are to be primarily utilized by Athens Middle School students.
For many years, Athens Middle School students had to walk to the soccer fields behind Walmart, located at 929 E. State St., to practice, Gibbs said. However, those fields are being reduced or eliminated, which would deprive youth players of a place to practice.
Jason Schroer, Athens High School varsity girls soccer coach, said he is hopeful other Athens soccer programs will be able to take advantage of the new soccer fields.
“I would hope other soccer organizations will have the option to use the fields in the future,” Schroer wrote in an email. “Overuse can be an issue and natural fields need time to regrow.”
Greta Hibbard, a sophomore studying math and physics, attended West Elementary School when she was younger. She said it would be beneficial for players to practice on a new field.
“The current fields flood easily so it’s good they’re finding a better spot for them,” Hibbard wrote in an email.
Schroer is optimistic about what the new soccer fields have to offer to students.
“In my opinion, sports can be an integral part of a student's growth and development,” Schroer wrote in an email. “Sports offer the chance for students to develop social skills and other life skills such as teamwork, communication, and commitment.”
However, Hibbard said she is overall torn by the idea of her former school being demolished. She explained how her experience at West Elementary School was overwhelmingly positive.
“On one hand it is exciting for Athens to improve their education system for a plethora of reasons, but it is also sad because the building has so much history,” Hibbard wrote in an email. “It's sad I won’t be able to come back and feel nostalgic about the building.”
Ultimately, Hibbard said the school holds a sentimental place within her and her peers’ memories. She was able to create interpersonal relationships with her fellow students, teachers and staff due to small class sizes.
“It meant a lot to the community, especially those who went to school there,” Hibbard wrote in an email. “Everyone feels very nostalgic about it. I don't necessarily think people are upset about it being torn down because it is replaced with a very nice facility. Mostly nostalgic-sadness not anger-sadness.”