Youth soccer field will replace Athens’ West Elementary following demolition

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — For 100 years, generations of students shuffled through the halls of West Elementary School in Athens.

West Elementary school in Athens
West Elementary in Athens (Aaron Payne | WOUB)

Now the school is shuttered, and by the end of the year it will likely be gone. But the grounds will still play host to the community’s youth.

A soccer field will take the school’s place, providing practice space for the Athens Middle School teams and anyone else who wants to use it.

Without a dedicated field, the girls and boys middle school soccer teams have been using whatever is available to get in their practices.

“They have practiced at the WalMart fields, behind the library, behind the rec center, at the high school, or the West State fields,” girls soccer coach Jason Schroer wrote in a statement to WOUB. “The dedicated space will be highly utilized and will help build the boys and girls soccer programs in Athens.”

It’s also much closer to the middle school than the other practice spots.

West Elementary, which opened in 1922 and saw several expansions and renovations over the decades, hosted its final classes this past school year.

Its fate was sealed when the Athens City School District, facing declining enrollment, decided to focus its resources on rebuilding or renovating other elementary schools.

Renovating West Elementary would have cost millions of dollars, said Tom Gibbs, the district’s superintendent. An estimate in 2018 was for close to $9 million.

The state would not have contributed anything to this renovation unless the school, which can hold 280 students, was expanded to accommodate at least 350, driving the cost even higher, Gibbs said.

The district has already sold off what it could of the school’s furnishings and equipment. Someone even bought the vintage wood doors from the original classrooms to repurpose them.

The playground equipment has to be removed to make room for the soccer field, Gibbs said. The smaller kindergarten playground was donated to the city for the West State Street park. A teeter-totter from the larger playground was donated to the village of Glouster, but the rest of the equipment will be scrapped.

Gibbs said there’s not much of a resale market for used school playground equipment because of strict safety standards and the cost of removing the equipment, which is anchored down into concrete piers. Simply cutting off the anchoring poles above the concrete shortens the equipment, which can cause problems with height requirements.

Asbestos removal is planned for late October. Meanwhile, the district is getting the final costs for demolition, which will remove everything but the gazebo and the Civil War monument out front along Central Avenue. The monument commemorates the school grounds as the former site of Camp Wool, a training ground for Ohio volunteers during the war.

Gibbs hopes the demolition will be completed by the end of the year so the soil can be seeded before winter and ready for soccer practice at the start of the next school year, with field lines marked and goals installed.

During demolition, Gibbs said, bricks from the original school building, which were made locally, will be piled in an area outside the temporary safety fencing for anyone who wants to claim a piece of Athens history.