We are truly grateful for the continued support of education in the Athens City School District. Through this support, we have been able to further conversations on how our future buildings will serve the educational needs of our students.

As part of that process, multiple groups composed of more than 100 community members from all over our district have been working on this project. Their conversations have been broad, including how many classrooms per building, how many children in each classroom, how spaces for students with special needs are sized and equipped, what we can do with our arts spaces to enhance opportunities, how to improve community spaces to assist families in need, and more.

They have visited new buildings in other districts and continue to work together for the benefit of our children. We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have such dedication in our community to education.

The Athens City School District actively and regularly engages in conversations about sustainability and the environment. Several years ago, the district began to explore adding solar to our buildings. During that time the superintendent met with Upgrade Athens County and Energy Optimizers. More recently the superintendent and School Board members have had conversations with local, county and state entities. We have inquired about paths toward greater sustainability and reached out to multiple experts on renewable energy. This has been and will remain a continual effort.

Lately, the topic of sustainable building design has been in our local news. To some, it may seem that there is a divide between the School Board and those advocating for sustainable buildings. We both believe that we have much more in common than not. There are a variety of ways school districts have worked toward building facilities that produce as much energy as they consume. Each comes with different cost considerations. Some have simply paid for it out of pocket at a cost per square foot that exceeds our available budget. Other schools were built solar ready but have not yet been able to provide ways to harvest energy. 

In some cases, schools partner with energy providers or third parties to supply solar arrays through power purchase agreements (PPA) or other funding streams that generally exist outside of their levy-supported projects. Our district is currently part of an energy group purchasing energy at a very favorable rate. Any PPA will require multiple parties working together to ensure that we can, in fact, make such an agreement possible in a way that does not financially disadvantage the district. We are looking forward to these conversations.

We continue to work through a number of challenges on this specific topic. We take community concerns very seriously and regularly share them with the design team.

We are committed to keeping greenery and trees at our schools. We are working to ensure that we have large playgrounds at school sites that are restricted in space while designing building footprints that maximize the ability to host solar collection systems. We also must work within the parameters set by the State of Ohio for school buildings.

These are only a few examples of many that must be taken into consideration. It is a very challenging puzzle to solve that will take some time to put together. These challenges are worth solving, and we are committed to doing so.

Achieving energy independence is a worthy goal but it cannot override all of the other concerns and needs for our learning spaces within the district. While certainly a part, it is only that; a part of a larger facilities plan to provide the best constructed and equipped learning environments that our community can afford. No matter what happens with these buildings, modern construction methods and more efficient building systems and materials will save the district money. In the meantime, we will continue to work on many other facets of education in the school district.

Both of us are hopeful that we can break through the barrier of understanding on this issue. While we as a district continue to consider how our buildings will best serve our students, it will be important to continue dialogue with the community. It will take time to work through this in the thorough manner that it deserves and requires. A well-thought-out process is necessary to meet our ultimate responsibility: a school district that provides the best education and serves our students and community to the greatest extent possible.

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