The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


May 20, 2014

UPDATED: City schools unveil images of new Athens Elementary, Cowart renovations

— Athens City Schools have unveiled preliminary renderings for a proposed new Athens Elementary School as well as renovations to James Cowart Elementary School.

The new elementary school, as well as the renovations to Cowart, would mirror the Greek Revival architecture present in Athens State University and the former Green University, which once stood where Athens Elementary playground is now located. The same architecture is also visible in the Limestone County Courthouse and the new City Hall under construction at the corner of Marion and Hobbs streets.

Shawn Calma, vice president of Lathan Associates Architects of Hoover, and draftsman Cody Bryant briefed Athens school board members on the proposed building and renovation plans on May 8.


Athens Elementary School

Calma showed board members a slide presentation of the proposed $10 million Athens Elementary, currently located at 515 N. Madison St., a few blocks north of downtown. The two-story school would be built on the ground where the current Athens Elementary playground is located, but the new building would front Second Avenue and a park, and playground area would be created where the current school building is located.

Plans call for 24 general-use classrooms on floors one and two, Calma said.

“We are also working with ASU on the potential for some of their students using this as a learning facility,” he said.

Calma said the second floor would include additional classroom space, and the architects tried to develop the classrooms in quadrants for each grade. The plan is to have grades K-2 on the bottom floor.

The plans include a full, competition gymnasium on the back, right corner of the building “with it’s own separate entrance that could be used during off hours and closed off from the rest of the building,” Calma said.

“The front of the building takes cues from not only Green College (University), which was there at one time, but it also has references to Athens State with the four columns in front and the capitals on top,” Calma said

Board member Chris Paysinger asked where the school’s safe room would be located. Calma said it would likely be located in the kitchen/cafeteria area. He said the architects avoided planning a safe room in the gymnasium because of its height and the resulting cost.

Plans also call for a future wing on the backside of the building with potential for additional classrooms on the second story. Calma said there is also a possible alternate bid that would include a back pod for additional classrooms.

Board member Jennifer Manville had raised the question of the number of doors in the building. Generally, the number of doors in a school building is a concern from a safety standpoint.

Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay said the proposed site for Athens Elementary is contingent on the results of an engineering study.

James Cowart Elementary School

Proposed renovations to Cowart Elementary, which is located at 1701 W. Hobbs Street, would include a new columned entrance to the building, an auditorium, a storm shelter and a playground.

Holladay said he has also discussed with the architects security for the front of the building as well as heating and air-conditioning, doors and windows.

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