Athens Elementary School Playground

A little girl enjoys the new swing at the playground at Athens Elementary School on Clinton Street. The swing, which was donated to the school, can be used by children with disabilities.

When Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay learned it would cost $28,000 to move the playground equipment from the old Athens Elementary School site to the temporary one on Clinton Street, he knew there had to be a cheaper way.

So, he gathered some bus mechanics and school maintenance workers, and they moved the equipment themselves.

"We spent a couple thousand renting equipment and for concrete, but it's in and it turned out real well," Holladay told The News Courier on Thursday.

The school system is going to build a $13-million elementary school on the site of the old Athens Elementary School off Houston Street, said Serena Owsley, chief financial officer for Athens City Schools. In the meantime, students are taking classes at the old Athens Middle School at 601 S. Clinton St.

This past summer, maintenance workers renovated and painted the old middle school building, making it more useful and welcoming for elementary students. Demolition of the old elementary school began this summer. Site work and construction of the new school will begin next year, Owsley said.

The playground equipment had to be moved in part because the layout for the new building and playground will change from the original.

Owsley said no one expected it would cost so much to move playground equipment.

Holladay said the bus mechanics and the maintenance workers did more work than he did, but he did pitch in. He mapped out where playground equipment should go at the Clinton Street campus beforehand, then helped with the move itself.

"We used a backhoe and rented a skid steer (small tractor) and used a jackhammer to get the equipment out," he said. "We got the holes dug and got everything cemented in. It took about three days."

He said he was happy to get outside and help with the project.

New swing

Along with the existing equipment, a new inclusive swing was added to the playground on Clinton Street, said iAcademy Principal Cindy Davis. The swing was donated to the school, she said.

Children who are wheelchair-bound, use a walker or have other physical disabilities can now swing at the playground, according to the school's Facebook page. Davis said people at the school are thrilled about the new swing.

"That was a donation, and it was on our wishlist," she said. "We left it in the box because we knew we would be moving. So, we are super excited."

Other improvements are also coming to the playground, she said, including a covered area for those who use the area. Rubber mulch will be added for safety and aesthetics, Holladay said.

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