Athens School Board Talks Potential For Schools at The Ridges

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ATHENS — The possibility of Athens elementary schools on property at The Ridges was tossed around Thursday night at the Athens City School Boards’ September meeting , but so, too, was talk of expanding existing buildings.

No decisions have been made on the how to break up the elementary and middle schools, but further discussion brought up property about which the district is in negotiations with Ohio University and how much it would take to expand and possibly rebuild the existing elementaries.

The district has been weighing its options since a steering committee presented their final recommendations in March, which included three options they felt were best for the schools.

Option one would have one campus (three buildings) for grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, and one school each for sixth through eighth grades and high school grades.

Option two would break the grades up in one school each, for pre-K through second grade, third through fifth, sixth through eight and high school.

The third option would bring two schools for pre-K through fifth grades and one school each for grades six through eight and high school.

The board tossed out the first option (including a traditional pre-K through sixth grade set up) on Thursday, but still can’t decide how to move forward.

Vocal opposition to a so-called “mega-school” has been a part of school board meetings for months. Signs have been placed in yards across the city expressing opposition to one school for all in the district and larger class sizes as a result.

Some parents and teachers have said they feared inequity and larger class sizes in some of the possibilities brought up at the steering committee meetings.

Tony Schorr, from Schorr Architects, presented options for an elementary school “campus” at The Ridges on Thursday, along with other land use options there, despite the fact that the university has not given the school a concrete number of acres they might receive from the sale of the land.

Plans drawn up for Schorr by Sands Decker CPS showed what a 15-acre campus could look like, and also what a school on five acres could be. The options for The Ridges, however, would also have to include improvements to roads, sewer and water access, Schorr said.

It would take about $1 million to make the infrastructure passable for the increased traffic and population a school would bring, Schorr told the board. The board agreed more research was needed.

“We have to think this through in terms of infrastructure and roadways and traffic patterns,” said Board Chair Kim Goldsberry.

Acreage in the current school district include a 69.5 acre plot for Athens High School and an 8.2 acre plot on which The Plains Elementary sits, according to Superintendent Tom Gibbs.

Talk of expanding the existing schools, particularly The Plains Elementary, was also brought up at the meeting. The board asked Schorr to come back at the next meeting with a rundown of costs and possible options for the existing elementaries.


As negotiations continue between the district and the university, the board members had several questions for Gibbs to take to the university. Most notably, the board wanted a more definitive number of acres the school would be getting, and Christian Gehrig wondered if cost-sharing with the university was possible.

“We can certainly ask,” Gibbs told Gehrig on Thursday night.

One thing the board was urged to do at the meeting was to make a final decision sooner rather than later.

“We are at a point where we need to start making decisions or it will negatively affect students, in regards to the facilities,” Gibbs said, adding that the board and the community need to move forward with “whatever the plan is.”