Plans are taking shape to get rid of modular units at Centennial Arts Academy and put students back in brick-and-mortar buildings.
A large, two-story new classroom building is being planned to go behind the current school building.
“We really want to make sure we have our students in permanent classrooms as much as possible,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Wanda Creel said. “At Centennial, we are proposing to, very soon, begin a 30-classroom expansion.”
A starting construction date has not yet been set, according to school officials. But Centennial Principal Leslie Frierson said the intent is for the addition to replace the modular units adjacent to the school.
“All of our schools, except for Fair Street, have modular units or what we lovingly refer to as ‘learning cottages,’” Creel said. “Those are non-brick-and-mortar facilities. That said, we do have some very nice modulars.”
Originally, the plan was for the addition to be installed where the modular units are now, to the left and behind the main school building. Soil testing showed the land there was not suitable for a building of this size, so the addition is instead planned to go directly behind the main building.
“Behind the building, outside of the cafeteria and across that small road used by buses, is where we intend to place the 30-classroom unit,” Creel said.
The school will also be part of a traffic survey. Creel said with the addition of the Ninth Grade Center behind Centennial in the old Wood’s Mill Academy building, coupled with growth at the high school, traffic is heavy near the elementary school.
“It’s to really look at traffic flows for the whole campus, to see if we’ve got traffic flowing in the directions that best suit the entire complex and create a safe environment,” said Adrian Niles, director of maintenance and operations for the school system.
The road adjacent to the addition will have to close during construction, Niles pointed out, so another route will likely be necessary for some traffic flow.
Frierson said, once complete, the permanent classroom space will be a “huge benefit to the students.”
“I think it will be much more aesthetically pleasing and just provide some much-needed space for our students as part of the main school structure, so it doesn’t feel so separate,” she said. “We’re really excited about the possibility of having that sooner rather than later.”