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June 19, 2014

City planner to address open-park concept for AMS campus

ATHENS — Athens City Planner Mac Martin will address conceptual plans for an open park to occupy grounds on which Athens Middle School now stands.

Martin will meet with the Historic Donnell House board at 2 p.m. June 29 at the Donnell house located on the AMS campus.

“We would like to take this public,” said Donnell board President Ida Terry. “We would like the public to come and get informed, and in particular, learn what is planned for the Donnell House.”

Most of the AMS buildings will eventually be demolished when middle school students are moved to what is now Athens High School on U.S. 31 North.

AMS moving

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 an April school board meeting. Martin said the projects may start next year if voters approve a local referendum in May 2015, increasing millage rates that go toward the school system. The new high school is estimated to cost $45 million. School officials already 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. The current middle school was built in 1939 as a high 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.

The Athens school system also owns the Donnell House, which used to house the city superintendent, but has long since been maintained by the Donnell board as a meeting place for various social groups and events.

Just a proposal

Under what Martin stresses is just a “conceptual” plan, the AMS buildings that surround the Donnell House would be demolished, except for the auditorium and gymnasium, as Holladay mentioned in April.

“The auditorium and gym are still getting a lot of use,” said Martin. “The plan would call for clearing the rest as an open-space park with the Donnell House as the central feature. But, a lot of dominoes must fall before that can happen, he said.

“First, city schools will have to have a property-tax increase for a new high school and renovations to other educational facilities. This park is predicated on a moving of Athens Middle School students to the high school. Quite a few things must fall into place for that to become a reality.”

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