Board Of Ed To Discuss Facilities Levy, Implicit Bias Programming

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ATHENS — The Athens City School District will have to set their priorities straight at Thursday’s regular meeting.

The district is on it’s way to a November ballot measure regarding their facilities improvement plan, but they still have to decide what locally-funded initiatives to take on as part of a facilities improvement plan.

“Those are the things the state doesn’t fund, like an auditorium, fixed-seat auditorium, an extra gym, those types of things,” Superintendent Tom Gibbs said.

After more than a year of discussion, the district’s board of education decided not to segment the work they’d be doing to completely renovate Athens High School, partially renovate Athens Middle School and consolidate the elementary schools around the district.

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, according to previous WOUB reporting.

The total cost is currently estimated at about $90 million, leaving the district to pay about $60 million of that, according to plan documents provided by the district. Funds not provided by the proposed bond issue would come from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, an agency for the State of Ohio that oversees capital improvements projects conducted by schools.

Superintendent Tom Gibbs has maintained his emphasis on the need for improvements throughout the discussions. Parents and teachers came forward at almost every previous board meeting to express concerns about larger class sizes, a lack of access for those with learning and other disabilities, and even concern that the district would make a “mega-school.”

Now, Gibbs says, it’s time to make final decisions, including the locally-funded initiatives.

“The message has been pretty well put out there that we intend to put a bond issue on the ballot,” Gibbs said. “I would hope that folks who have wanted to provide some input have been contacting me or board members to give their perspective.”

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board plans to talk about new programs the district wants to put in place to better train students on implicit bias and racial sensitivity.

After an investigation at Athens High School found that students at the school “routinely use racially charged language, tell racially inappropriate jokes and otherwise racially harass one another,” Gibbs said the district began working with the Ohio University Department of Social and Public Health to arrange programming to help administrators and teachers learn how to battle the problem.

“We’re talking about an issue that is not specific to the Athens City Schools, this is a societal concern that is much broader than just us or much broader than a single incident,” Gibbs previously told WOUB. “So, how do we use this as an impetus to have a bigger conversation about improving, not only as an organization, but also from a community perspective.”

The Athens City Schools Board of Education will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Athens High School Auditorium.