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Future of Wood’s Mill Academy up in air

Gainesville school board to discuss issue at tonight’s meeting

POSTED: November 17, 2013 11:43 p.m.

Gainesville school leaders are considering closing the Academy at Wood’s Mill at the end of this school year.

“Two years ago, we envisioned (Wood’s Mill) growing as a school and becoming a second high school,” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. “The main thing we’ve learned is, if students need help and they learn better in (a certain) way, why do you have to move them to another building?”

The issue is on the agenda for tonight’s Gainesville Board of Education meeting.

If approved by board members, Wood’s Mill would close as a school. The building, at 715 Wood’s Mill Road, would then be used to house certain high school classes along with the fledgling International Baccalaureate program for grades 6-10.

International Baccalaureate is a curriculum-based learning method that aims to develop students into globally aware citizens. 

There are three phases of IB learning — one for elementary students, one for students in grades 6-10 and a high school phase, which can lead to students receiving IB certification alongside their high school diplomas.

Fair Street School follows the program for its elementary school students. Gainesville wants to expand the program for upper grade levels, primarily so Fair Street students can continue their IB education.

Wood’s Mill opened in 2010 as an option for high school students who needed more flexible hours or different learning options, such as online or virtual classes.

The building housed Fair Street students during the construction of their new school building; they moved out in mid-October.

New for this year at the Wood’s Mill campus was the inclusion of middle school students seeking different learning options, but Dyer said an entirely separate school is no longer needed.

“Particularly starting last year, and into this year, Gainesville High School and Gainesville Middle School put in blended, virtual learning options for their classes at their campuses,” Dyer said. “We don’t need another school now.”

The building itself would go under a separate name, but middle school students would be identified as Gainesville Middle, and high school students would be under Gainesville High.

“We’re making, I think, a recommendation for (the name) Gainesville Global and Advanced Studies because it will still have the blended learning and virtual learning center for the high school, but now all the high schools can use it,” Dyer said.

Also housed at Wood’s Mill is the Gainesville Learning Academy, a nonoptional program for students placed there for disciplinary reasons. Dyer said those students would remain in that building, using a separate entrance away from other students.

If the future of Wood’s Mill is voted on and approved by board members tonight, the school system would immediately apply to the International Baccalaureate program, Dyer said. The state would also be notified of the intention to close Wood’s Mill as a separate school on June 30, 2014.

“We’ve demonstrated that (Wood’s Mill) helped the students,” Dyer said. “Wood’s Mill did not go on the alert list. (Those students) are graduating and getting good achievement scores. Now, if we offer that to all Gainesville High School students, more students can be assisted.”

Tonight’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the main office on 508 Oak St.

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