To the Editor:

Last week Athenians demonstrated how much they cherish their recycling provider, as well as how much they believe there to be need for the city to follow through consistently and credibly on its tail wags to sustainability.

Over the next few days and weeks, Athenians will have the opportunity to register if they cherish their children similarly.

Succumbing quickly to internally generated fear that their freshly minted budget might not have been crafted sufficiently to meet all the expectations of and promises extended to the public, the Athens City School Board voted last February to remove hardened storm shelters from the construction budget of all three new elementary schools, “saving” approximately $865,000.

As the School Board understood it, the timing of voter approval of the bond measure grandfathered the district’s Facilities Master Plan out of the state’s new mandatory requirement of hardened storm shelters for all new school construction.

Flying the measure under fiscal conservancy and responsibility to taxpayers to keep construction costs and future interest debt down, the board established to its own satisfaction that no catastrophic storm would ever hit Athens schools over the next 60 years.

This made student safety – the one charge that supersedes all others, including education – the first casualty of the district’s and pre-bond architect’s planning, nothing short of a vote to gamble with the lives of students in order to free up $865,000 of construction capital.

Before the architect’s ink dries and construction plans are finalized is the time to ask, what is the value that Athenians place on their children? Is the answer more forthcoming if a child lies needlessly incapacitated or lifeless after a catastrophic event? Is the cost different from child to child? Does it differ should multiple children be lost?

School districts across the country, prone to tornados, severe weather or not, aren’t gambling with children’s lives.

In an enormous sea change, and for two reasons, they are specifically requiring that insulated concrete forms (ICFs) be the method of new construction.

The foremost reason is student, faculty and staff safety, as schools constructed with ICFs are effectively if not inherently “hardened storm shelters” from end to end, not just buildings containing safe rooms or hardened modules.

The second is ICFs cost no more than other comparable forms of construction. When reduced construction time, materials, labor, insulation, furring, water-proofing and finishing costs (“all trades”) are combined, ICFs incur little to no additional and frequently less cost.

Quite literally, if the School Board required ICFs, the $865,000 which they prized so highly in February would remain available, while reversing the risk they created.

So the questions are, will the School Board commit to student safety and require the designers to build with ICFs? If they haven’t yet, will parents step up and demand that the board protect their children and require ICFs for all three elementary schools?

They’re your children, Athens, your grandchildren and your future.

Will you allow others to needlessly assign a discount price tag to their lives?

These links should be helpful for readers...

ICFs at Richardsville Elementary School, KY: Safety

Disaster Resistance Update : ICF Builder, The Insulated Concrete Forms Magazine

Green Building in the Commercial Sector – ICF Builder: The Insulated Concrete Forms Magazine

Why ICF Is Being Specified by School Districts

Insulating Concrete Forms Vs Concrete Masonry Units

Todd Swearingen


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