By Kim West
The Athens school system is moving forward with previously announced plans to build a new Athens High School, along with a new Athens Elementary School, said Superintendent Trey Holladay during Thursday’s school board meeting.
After the meeting Holladay said he could foresee starting the projects next year if voters approve a local referendum in May 2015, increasing millage rates that go toward the school system.
The superintendent said the new elementary school would be located at the site of the school’s adjacent playground, which is the location of a former primary school.
He said the historic portion of AES with its trademark church belfry will be retained but the remainder of the school would give way to a park that would be used by the school during the day and open to the public during non-school hours.
AES, which dates back to the 1930s according to the school’s website, is located a few blocks north of downtown on North Madison Street.
Specific details about the estimated $45 million AHS, along with the new elementary, will be revealed in the coming weeks, Holladay said.
School officials already had released an architectural rendering of the new high school, which will be located between Sussex Drive and U.S. 31.
The 40-year-old current AHS will be converted into the new home for Athens Middle School, which Holladay previously said is about 65 years old.
The downtown historic district, a subdivision and three apartment complexes surrounds the middle school. He said the school system and city officials have discussed turning over a portion of the property to be used as a community park, while sharing use of the AMS auditorium and gymnasium.
Holladay said Julian Newman Elementary and Cowart Elementary School also are in line for building upgrades, while an addition is planned at Brookhill Elementary School.
The school board approved the retirements of four longtime employees who have more than 90 years of combined service with the Athens system.
Brookhill Principal Felicia Phillips, Julian Newman teacher Hedy Lou Cannon, Julian Newman teacher Sharon Russ and Athens Intermediate School bookkeeper/secretary Nancy Rush are retiring at the end of the school year.
In other business, the board approved the following:
• Resignations from Josh Fuqua as eighth-grade boys head football coach at AMS, with Fuqua retaining his teaching position, and Jonathan Keenon as custodian at AHS;
• A leave request for Rebecca Munoz, a physical education aide at AIS;
• Twelve-month contracts for AHS custodian Charlotte Shoulders and Central Office employee Tandy Norris.
The board will hold regular meetings next month on May 1 and May 15.