Even in the dusty construction site of the new East Elementary School, natural light still pours into the half-completed classrooms and cafeteria.

That’s because Athens City School District Superintendent Tom Gibbs said maximizing natural lighting in every school setting was a guiding design philosophy.

“We want natural light in spaces where folks are spending their day-to-day,” Gibbs said.

The Athens Messenger toured the facility and saw for ourselves.

Massive windows dominate the classrooms, hallways, and group spaces in the new site of East elementary. The cafeteria and gym will be one space, partitioned by a moving door.

And even with only construction lighting in the gym/lunchroom combo, light filters in from the cutouts in the vaulted ceilings where windows will be.

Construction is moving to plan, and the entire block facade is complete. Now construction workers need to lay bricks around the entirety of the building, which Gibbs said takes a few months.

Another design philosophy employed at East Elementary is a recognition of the tradition and architectural heritage of Athens.

“We’re trying as much as possible to blend the building in with the neighborhood,” Gibbs said.

To this end, the main entrance will feature a craftsman-style main visitors entrance, to match the dominant style of east side houses.

Gibbs said the planners were inspired to employ similar style light-colored brick trim as the original building from the 1900s, which was replaced by the recently-demolished building.

“The lighter color block kind of mirrors some of the lighter stone trim that was on that original building,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said the project, which was budgeted at $18 million, is on schedule and on budget to be open for the next school year.

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