School Board President Kim Goldsberry is seen holding a “clicker” that allowed for audience responses during Thursday’s meeting.

Note: This story appears in the Sunday, Sept. 22 newspaper on Page A1.

Many, many factors must be considered in determining the look and design of a new school building.

There’s the overall cost, of course; energy and sustainability; safety of the students and staff; and the general aesthetic quality.

The Athens City School District’s board of education is considering those factors as members oversee a wide-scale facilities overhaul. On Thursday, the school board got some help from the public in helping choose suitable designs. Visitors to Thursday’s school board meeting were polled on their preferences of exterior style options for the new East and Morrison-Gordon Elementary schools.

The final decisions on all aspects of the building reconstruction projects will be made by school board members, though Thursday’s exercise gave them a chance to gather community input.

Mike Dingeldein, of Community Design Alliance, started the discussion by presenting various styles the schools could be modeled after —

from traditional brick buildings to more contemporary looks. Meeting attendees received remote clickers to give instant responses to each design.

Traditional materials, such as brick and limestone, were highly rated by the 50 or so in the audience. Contemporary design styles with non-traditional materials — which would include features such as large glass walls — rated poorly among the participants, with most saying it would not be appropriate for the East site. A hybrid design with traditional materials and contemporary details rated highly for the Morrison Gordon site.

Audience members were also asked if they would like a combination of any of the options presented to them, or if there were other styles or materials they would prefer. One audience member suggested bringing art deco aspects into the design for East.

“What we’ve learned is that these (buildings) absolutely will not be identical, and demand a different style,” Dingeldein said. “The site contexts are very different.”

He said the goal of the night’s exercise was to get an understanding of what “curb appeal” the school community might want for each building. Other ideas suggested included designing more green space around the schools (but not enclosed courtyards) and using sustainable materials in the construction.

Athens Supt. Tom Gibbs said the staff, teachers and stakeholders who would be inside the new buildings were also polled for their opinions. Teachers met individually with the architectural team from Schorr Architects and Community Design Alliance, and were able to discuss their specific needs for storage, lighting, flooring and other design aspects of their classrooms.

When the final decision will be made on the exterior design has not been announced. Dingeldein noted that the design team would be back to present possible options to the board at a later date.

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