By a unanimous vote, the Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday agreed on a facility plan that calls for a $24.8 million bond issue to be voted on May 10.

The two 7-0 votes — for a facilities plan and the official calling of the bond — came after a long line of 4-3 votes by the board concerning a possible bond issue. The unanimous vote led teachers and administrators to give the board a standing ovation.

“No plan is good if it doesn’t pass,” Superintendent Dr. Fred Hayes said while urging the board to unanimously approve a bond issue.

The facilities plan approved by the board was created during a meeting utilizing some of the components of the new facility plan presented by Hayes last Tuesday.

The new facility plan will add classrooms to Bel Air Elementary and South Athens Elementary. Those campuses will house kindergarten through third grade students working on a “spiral concept.”

That concept calls for:

• Bel Air Elementary to house first and second graders next year, second and third graders in 2009-2010, and third and kindergartners in 2010 and 2011. Bel Air would house kindergarten and first grade students for the 2011-2012 school year, as it does now;

• South Athens Elementary to house kindergarten and third graders in 2008-2009, kindergarten and first graders in 2009-2010, first and second graders in 2010-2011 and second and third graders for 2011-2012. South Athens currently houses second and third graders.

R.C. Fisher will be renovated for $3.54 million to become the district’s pre-kindergarten campus. Initially, Fisher was to be demolished and a new elementary campus would have been built on the sight costing approximately $6.71 million.

Renovations will be made at Athens Intermediate School, Athens High School and the Athens Annex. Athens Middle School will have a 16-classroom sixth grade “house” separate from the main campus, PBK Architect O. Wayne Reynaud said.

Reynaud said sixth, seventh and eighth graders will only share common areas such as the gym, cafeteria and band halls.

According to AISD Business Manager Randy Jones, the bond, if approved, will raise property taxes from $1.1534 this year to $1.3074 next year.

“The property taxes have gone down the last two years, and this is 41 cents (.4166 cents exactly) lower than it was two years ago,” he said.

In 2005-06, property taxes were $1.57, in 2006-07 they dropped to $1.4453.

Jones explained that for a $100,000 house, taxes would go up $10.91 a month, or $130.90 a year.

Doug Whitt of Southwest Securities said taxpayers 65 years and older who have applied to have their school taxes frozen in 2007 will not be affected by the increase.

Once a homeowner’s school taxes are frozen, that person does not pay any more in school taxes even if the appraised value of the house increases or even if the school tax rate increases.

The board also heard presentations from four elementary teachers who all believe a kindergarten through third grade campus will be ideal with looping between kindergarten and first grade and second through third grade.

“I am totally in favor of having kids stay on a campus, kindergarten through third grade,” first grade teacher Sandy Carter said. “We can have so much more success than we already have.”

Athens attorney Fred Head, who spoke during the public comments portion, addressed the board by urging it to wait on calling the bond. He reminded board members that an earlier board decision to move the sixth grade students from R.C. Fisher to Athens Middle School next year could be “reconsidered.”

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