Athena-Weston school track project now in the fast lane

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ATHENA — The Athena-Weston School District is nearing the construction phase of a new running track.

The district recently received a $75,000 grant from the Athena-Weston Educational Resources Enhancement Board, bringing the group’s total contribution for the project to $160,000, said Superintendent Jerry Copeland.

A past contribution of $15,000 to the district by the Wildhorse Foundation for the track project brings the total to $175,000 so far.

The Athena-Weston School Board approved the latest AWERE grant during it’s April meeting this week. The district has received grants for the last three years from AWERE for various district needs.

The grants help round out gaps caused by years of reduced state funding, according to the School District’s website. They are funded by NEXTERA Energy Resources, which supports community enhancement.

The Athena-Weston track project is highly anticipated in the district. Current track students practice on dirt lanes, and use a track in the neighboring Milton-Freewater School District to train for competitions, Copeland said.

“We’re one of the only schools in our league that does not have a track,” he said.

The district plans to site the new track on the highway side of Athena Elementary. It would have a regulation eight-lane, 400-meter track as well as areas for additional field events, according to the district.

Copeland said work is expected to start this summer to complete the track for the start of the 2013-14 school year this fall.

The entire project is estimated at $300,000, said Paula Reich, deputy clerk for the district.

Through AWERE, the district will pick up the difference in construction costs to move forward with the project, and then be reimbursed by AWERE through additional grants after it is finished.

“AWERE has committed to paying the rest of it,” Reich said. “It will all be funded by the AWERE grant over time.”

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