Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Oct. 20 newspaper on Page A1. 

Demolition plans for East Elementary and a new exterior look for the building were highlighted at Thursday’s meeting of the Athens school board.

East is the first building chosen as part of the Athens City School District’s facilities overhaul project. The school will be demolished and a new building will be constructed on the site for pre-K through third grade.

Morrison-Gordon Elementary will be the second school in this project. As reported, there is enough space on site for new construction to begin while classes continue at the existing school. A first look at that building’s floor plan was also presented during the Thursday’s meeting.

East construction plans

The school board approved a contract for East’s demolition that will cost around $700,000 for the “earthwork, abatement, building demolition and site demolition” to be performed by Ruscilli Construction Co. The demolition work will include three homes recently purchased by the district.

Ruscilli representatives also detailed how the site will look and function during the construction process. The team plans to implement one entrance and exit, and have that set to be on Verona Street. A wheel wash will serve to keep the neighborhood clean from the construction dust and mud. A chainlink fence will be installed around the site, leaving the sidewalks open, to provide security.

All in all, this part of the process is expected to take about three months. Work at the East site will be allowed between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Preliminary interior design

A preliminary look at the building design for East Elementary School was also part of the night’s presentations. A representative of Schorr Architects detailed how the building is laid out, as well as various features the team has incorporated to ensure a good experience for students, teachers and staff at the building.

The old building is built into the hill, and so the site presents a few difficulties. Verona Street will be extended as a private drive through the property and will connect to Wallace Drive.

The goal is for buses to use Verona Street for drop-offs/pick-ups, leaving Wallace and Maplewood Drives available for parent and guardian use.

The Verona-area wing is where the classrooms will be, while administrative offices will be located in the opposite corner of the L-shaped building near where Wallace and Maplewood Drives connect.

The building is constructed into the hill, making for an interesting three-floor design. The bottom level will house everything besides classrooms; this includes bathrooms, the gymnasium and cafeteria. The lunch room is planned to be located next to the gym, with large windows to provide natural lighting. A movable wall will separate the two areas to allow for a larger gathering space as needed.

The middle level will house the Pre-K and kindergarten classes, with the first through third grades on the upper level.

The section of the middle level along Wallace Drive will be mostly open to the gym and cafeteria below via an elevated corridor, leading to what will become dedicated subject classrooms such as for music. The school’s media center with windows will overlook the playgrounds.

The upper third floor will only exist along Verona Street.

The plans also had some preliminary ideas for the outdoor play areas, which will be separated into “hard play” and “soft play” areas, which refers to the type of ground. Hard play areas utilize concrete or asphalt surfaces. There are separated play areas based on age groups.

Morrison-Gordon layout

The Morrison-Gordon site will be a fair bit different from that of East’s. For one, the existing Morrison-Gordon building will remain as it is for the duration of the construction. This is because the property is sizable enough to house both buildings, although a small portion of playground space will be used by the contractors.

A representative of Schorr Architects detailed how the firm has laid out the building and the school’s property on West Union Street.

Currently, there are issues with student drop-off and pickup, as there is no turn lane from the 50 mile-per-hour road into the Morrison-Gordon property, creating some tension with the neighboring Beacon School.

To help address that, the plans call for a loop to be paved where the current Morrison-Gordon building is located. By creating a loop, the district administrators hope to separate parent drop-off (which will take place in the already existing parking lot that will be maintained following the construction) from the bus traffic, which will pull in directly in front of the school.

The site plans detail a two-part building, with courtyard-esque spaces in-between the two wings of the building.

The first portion of the building includes the main entrance, administrative offices, music and art classrooms, and the gym, student dining and “back of house” spaces, such as mechanical rooms and the kitchen. As at East, a movable wall will be installed between the student dining and gymnasium, allowing for a larger space if required.

A sloped corridor will lead down into the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms in the second wing, hidden from the road behind the initial wing of the building.

A second story will house the first through third grade classrooms.

Plans for the exterior of Morrison-Gordon have yet to be released, but further updates on the Athens City School District facilities project will be discussed at upcoming board meetings.

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