ATHENS, Ala. - The Athens City School District has an entire school currently sitting empty. The building was originally used as a high school when it was built over 70 years ago. It has been used for many different grade levels since then. It served as a middle school until the end of the last school year. Most recently it housed high school students waiting to move into their brand new facility.
Most schools are expected to last 50 years. This institution opened it's doors to the class of 1939. The initial plan for the old building was to tear it down and build a park, but since the district is growing at a much faster rate than officials predicted, they're glad to have a school that's empty.
"If it goes to projections and we're going to go from 26,000 people to 40,000 people in less than 10 years, that school will be occupied all the time," said Superintendent Trey Holladay
This isn't the only old school in the district. Holladay says they can use this as a temporary facility when they renovate other schools. The next group of students who will be calling this facility home is from Athens Elementary School. Holladay says students from Athens Elementary are scheduled to move into the empty school this summer. This is so crews can update the HVAC as well as other mechanical systems at the elementary school.
In addition to some schools needing repairs, many district schools are approaching capacity. "Athens Intermediate is at full capacity right now. We're going to have to do something there," he said.
The original high school will be able to help provide additional space for the district. "The way funding runs in Alabama, it runs a year in the rear so it catches, it allows us the funding to catch up to where the students are so that gives us kind of one-year breather to make plans and get things rolling," he explained.
Holladay says if the district can keep the school in good shape, he hopes to wait to retire the building for another four or five years. He says the school will eventually be torn down and a new school building could be constructed in its place.