Athens Board of Education Votes Not to Segment Facilities Master Plan

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ATHENS — The Athens City School Board took a long-awaited vote to proceed with plans for elementary and middle school mergers, and high school renovations. 

School board members voted on whether or not to segment the master plan on Thursday at their regular board meeting.

If they had voted to segment the plan, the first resolution would have focused on merging the elementary schools. Then a separate resolution would have to be passed on what to do with the high school.

The total cost is currently estimated at about $90 million, leaving the district to pay about $60 million of that. The other funds would come from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

There was a lengthy debate before the vote, where board members and residents of the district voiced their concerns.

School board members were split on the decision, with Sean Parsons , Roger Brown and Vice President Kim Goldsberry voting not to split the project. Officials at the meeting said breaking up the construction and renovation work would mean attempting to pass a levy for elementary school facilities funds, then coming back to voters later for more money, this time for the high school renovation.

In the master plan approved by the board, the district would be made up of two schools housing preschool to third grades, one on the East Elementary site and one on the Morrison Gordon grounds. One school would hold grades four through six at The Plains, and Athens Middle School would house seventh and eighth-graders with minor renovations.

The existing Athens High School is to be demolished in favor of a completely new facility, according to the plans. The master plan was to “abate and abandon” Chauncey’s facility.

This plan was a compromise between other ideas set forth by the Facilities Steering Committee. Back in the summer of 2016, the committee met multiple times and held public meetings to get the community’s input on what improvements the schools needed.

“We haven’t made significant investment in our facilities since 2000, so frankly, everything needed an update,” said Superintendent Thomas Gibbs at Thursday’s meeting.

In order to secure state funding that was agreed to by the OFCC, the board had until April 1 to make a finalized plan. The board now must decide whether to put the levy request before voters in November.

The board’s next scheduled meeting is set for April 19.