A new school for Enota was the subject of more than an hour of talking at Monday’s Gainesville Board of Education meeting, and another “open forum” session will be set.
No decisions were made, or discussed, about possible building plans.
The architects and engineers outlined the plans thus far — discussing three options, with three price tags.
A new building for Enota was announced last winter and ran into considerable controversy because it would destroy the Smartville garden, which was built largely by community volunteers.
The options outlined were the original plan, which would lower the current school site by nearly six feet; a version which would lower the site by 1.9 feet and would put bus traffic behind the school and car traffic in the front; and a site that would grade the site, fill in the current playground and create a new garden in an L-shape around the gym.
All three versions would create a two-story building with 60 classrooms.
Questions dealt with grading of the site, a retention pond on the back southern edge of the property and the traffic and parking spaces. None of the questions involved the building or its design.
The board agreed at its retreat Aug. 13 that it would meet with the architects and engineers and ask questions it had been asked by community members. However, no public questions or discussion was allowed.
Mark Fockele, one of the designers of the garden and one of the leaders in questioning the plans for a new building, said after the meeting that “a dialogue is needed” — questions back and forth between architects, board members and community members. He said the content of the meeting would have “taken a much different direction” if questions had been allowed.
Board Chair Delores Diaz had three suggested dates for the open forum — Sept. 12, 15 or 20 — but board members did not discuss them.
Board member Sammy Smith asked that the presentation made by the architects and engineers be put on the school district’s website for public comment.
Superintendent Wanda Creel suggested the presentation also might include a way for members of the public to ask questions or make comments about the information.
Board member John Filson asked what format the next meeting would take. He suggested “a dialogue before we begin a formal presentation.”
Tommy Wiley, with Carroll McDaniel, the construction firm that would build the building, pointed out the three options presented would be about $18 million, $18.1 million or $17.3 million, respectively.
Steve Duren, who is with McFarland and Dyer, engineers for the project, said the grading of the site to lower it six feet is necessary for bus safety.
Bus traffic would be moved from coming off of Enota Drive in front of the school to the east side, and that is a steeper area to get onto the site. He said grading the site would allow buses to come off the street on the side and circle in front of the building without scraping the back of the bus.
If the site were reduced by less — 1.9 feet — the bus traffic would be moved to the west side of the building and circle around the rear. Car traffic would then come off the east side and circle to the front of the building.