ATHENS, Ala. – A school building that once stood for nearly 100 years, is now a pile of rubble and memories near the intersection of Houston and Madison streets.
“Nobody knew early on, but that building had a creek that runs under it,” explained Trey Holladay, Superintendent of Athens City Schools. ” Whenever we had rain like we had today, our boiler room would flood and of course that was the whole heating mechanism for the system.”
Holladay said the community got its money’s worth with the school, most recently known as Athens Elementary, over the past 10 decades. The site has seen a lot of change over the years. It was actually the city of Athens’ original high school campus.
System officials said there are some families in Athens who have had several generations of family members pass through the hallways of the school. But what’s to come is exciting for everyone.
Holladay said for some, the memories were hard to let go of. “We looked first at trying to renovate, and we realized it was so cost ineffective that we were going to spend about $11.5, $12 million to renovate and we could build a new school for $15 million,” he explained.
But those calculations were made two years ago, and as phase one of the construction process begins, construction costs have increased. Administrators said they may have to slightly alter the blueprint to stay on budget.
But Holladay is confident the system will make the right changes to create an innovative educational environment for the next generation. “This school building is not being built for students today or teachers today,” he explained. “It’s being built for students 20 years from now, 30 years from now and 40 years from now.”
Officials said the new elementary school will be built on the same site. They anticipate construction will begin this year. As the blueprint stands, the new school is projected to hold twice as many students as the old one. Officials said they hope to have room for nearly 600 kids.
Currently, students who attend Athens Elementary School are now taking classes at the old Athens Middle School campus on Clinton Street.