What’s Next For Athens Schools?

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ATHENS — Last week, Athens City School’s Board of Education approved a new facilities master plan, but that’s not the end of the story.

Now that the district is moving forward with the entire project, the board will decide what locally funded initiatives will be included, and whether a bond issue will be included on voters’ November ballot.

Superintendent Tom Gibbs sent an email to parents explaining the process as it stands now. He said the Facilities Master Plan approval does not spell out specifically what voters will be approving or rejecting in November. That’s still up for board discussion.

“As the administration, faculty and staff begin the process of planning for the 18-19 School Year, please be aware that there will be no significant reconfiguration of the schools for the coming year,” Gibbs stated.

In their regular meeting last week, school board members were split on the decision to keep the project whole, 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 the high school project, according to previous WOUB reporting

In order to secure state funding that was agreed to by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the board had until April 1 to make a finalized plan.

According to 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. What is currently The Plains Elementary School will hold grades four through six, which will involve a complete renovation of the building and an addition. Athens Middle School is set to 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.

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 OFCC.

Board members went back and forth on whether or not to segment the project, and how to word the bond issue coming before voters.

“Multiple Board Members expressed the desire to keep the total cost of the project where the tax millage for the bond issue would be approximately 6 mils and the estimated cost per $100,000 in (property) valuation would be approximately $200,” Gibbs stated.

By May, the board has to decide which initiatives will be locally funded, and by June they will need to approve a “resolution of necessity” to move forward with the bond issue, according to Gibbs. Documents need to be filed with the Athens County Board of Elections by early August for the issue to appear on the November ballot.

“After the Board has made final decisions and knows the outcome of the election in relation to the bond levy, faculty, staff and members of the community will definitely be included in the planning for the construction of any new or renovated facilities, as well as the discussions related to subsequent changes in programming,” Gibbs wrote in the email.

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


Micah Upshaw contributed to this article.