Preparations have been under way all summer to get West Elementary in Athens ready for East Elementary’s kindergarten-through fifth grade students to move to that facility, while the Athens City School District demolishes the old East Elementary building.
The school district’s main answer to the question of where to move those students – who normally would be going back to school this month at East Elementary on Wallace Drive in Athens – was to rent a large modular-style facility with roughly eight classrooms and place it behind West Elementary.
Athens City Schools Supt. Tom Gibbs told The NEWS in a late July email that the district is paying about $480,000 for a three-year contract to use the modular classrooms. That includes initial delivery and set-up charges of $230,000 and a monthly lease payment of $5,010, Gibbs said.
“The balance of the contract is for tear-down and removal upon completion of the lease term,” Gibbs explained. “The setup costs include setting and leveling the classrooms on the property, installing the ramp/stairs and covered walkway, all inspections, and running electricity to the building. Essentially when they leave the site the building is ready to go.”
Athens City School Board Vice President Sean Parsons showed The NEWS what that modular facility looks like in a brief tour last month. The facility – located next to the playground just behind West Elementary – is essentially where West and East elementaries’ fourth and fifth graders will be housed in the period while East Elementary is being demolished and rebuilt.
There’s a large central hallway inside the modular building with multiple large classrooms branching from it. While there’s no plumbing or water fountains inside the building, it will have all other standard amenities (heating, cooling, WiFi, etc.) for classrooms in the School District. Meanwhile, the rest of the kindergarten-through-third-grade students will have classes in the main West Elementary building, Parsons said.
Parsons said that the rest of West Elementary should be able to handle East Elementary’s student population without much change needed inside.
Demolition of East Elementary should begin sometime in October or November. The total cost of abatement of hazardous materials and demolition is expected to be around $410,000, Gibbs said.
Meanwhile, it’s still not clear what could happen to the West Elementary building once the School District vacates that Central Avenue building.
“That’s a conversation with the Athens West Side (neighborhood) Association,” Parsons said. “They’re working on what they envision things could be here. It’s my opinion that I’d like to have a community-led decision about what goes here. It’s going to be years out, though. We’re still going to be using this space for shuffling students for a while. I’m guessing it’ll be four or five years out.”
The NEWS previously reported that the Athens City School Board approved a timeline for the first stage of construction for the district’s big facilities master plan in January 2019. That plan means building two new pre-kindergarten through third-grade buildings on the sites of East and Morrison-Gordon elementary schools. That timeline is as follows:
• Construction of two new pre-kindergarten through third-grade buildings will begin in winter of the 2019-2020 school year and likely will be completed before fall 2020-2021.
• Renovation of The Plains Elementary School building would begin in summer 2021 and likely be completed by summer 2022.
During this period, updates and safety modifications at Athens Middle School would be completed this summer and summer 2019.
Sixth-grade students from both East and West elementaries will be housed at the Athens Middle School, meanwhile. Parsons added that students will be able to stay at Morrison-Gordon Elementary School while the construction of a new facility begins because it will be built behind the school.
Last November, voters in the district approved a 5.88-mill property tax levy to reimburse the district for the $60.5 million local share of the master plan project over a 30-year period. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) has committed to providing 32 percent of the total cost of the project (an expected $27.5 million).