Athens mayor says new high school will bring economic growth

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ATHENS, Ala. -- The new high school in Athens is expected to open in the next few weeks.

The $60 million project will of course benefit the students that go there, but Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks says the school will have impacts across North Alabama and was a necessity.

"People would drive by the old high school, and mamas with young children would say, 'We really want to look at Athens, but we're not sending our kid to this facility,'" he said. "And although the quality of education was there, the physical plant was really atrocious."

The new high school has been in progress for about 10 years.

Marks stated the new school is almost ready.

"We're close, and within the next few weeks I think the students will be in the new high school," he explained.

He said the school won't only benefit the students, but the community as a whole as well.

"As people visit our communities they want to look at sportsplex, they want to look at recreation activities and they want to look at educational opportunities," he added.

He said the new high school is just the start of the continued growth coming to Athens.

"It's hard to imagine what we will look like in five years," he stated. "You'll have Mazda Toyota, you'll have spin-off companies and suppliers. And it's going to continue for some time I predict. We have several pieces of property now in Athens and Limestone County that's being looked at for investments for retail opportunities."

He said one of the major challenges will be handling the traffic that comes with the growth.

There is not a definitive date for when the new school will open, but school officials say it has been structurally ready for months - They are just waiting on a state inspection.

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