Athens City Schools Takes First Steps To Get State Aid For Building Upgrades

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Athens City School Board has started a process that Supt. Carl Martin said he hopes will ultimately lead to major upgrades and renovations to all of the district’s school buildings.

The board approved a resolution Thursday authorizing the district to apply for what’s called an “active planning process” with the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

“This is the first step to begin the process of obtaining state facilities assistance money,” explained Martin. “It informs the School Facilities Commission that we’re interested in getting state assistance.”

To start, the commission will conduct a full assessment of the district’s school buildings. The assessment will identify areas that need repaired, replaced or upgraded and provide cost estimates. It will also account for projected enrollment figures.

“They’ll look at the HVAC systems, roofs, floors, electricity; it’s the total facility infrastructure assessment,” Martin continued.

Martin said the assessments could be done as early as May or June 2014. From there, the school board and the commission will work together to create a master plan for the district. If all goes well, the district could have a master plan sometime in 2014.

The master plan, explained Martin, would outline how the district could create up-to-date, energy-efficient, modern buildings that “will last another 30 years.”

“I’m excited,” Martin said. “I’ve been working on this since Larry Householder was speaker of the House (2001-2005),” he said with a laugh. “We’ve just been waiting for our number to come up. It’s getting close.”

Martin has been biding his time until he could apply for the commission’s Classroom Facilities Assistance Program, which was established in 1997 and is the oldest state-funded commission program. The program provides partial state funding for facilities projects. Priority for participating is based on property wealth of the district. At that time, Athens City Schools was No. 474 out of the state’s 612 districts.

“It’s time,” Martin said. “Our youngest building was built in 1990. Even it needs some major upgrades and enhancements.”

To help schools like Athens that would have to wait years before getting funds, Martin worked with Householder to create another program that provided credits to schools who were low on the list. For every dollar the district spent upgrading facilities, the district received a credit.

Athens City Schools has accumulated $12 million in credits.

“What we’re trying to do is use our credit, use favorable interest rates and plan to do a lot of major renovations,” Martin said. “We want modern buildings that are more efficient and less costly to operate and will enhance the learning experience for students.”