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Board seeks community input on Fair Street school
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Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and the old middle school will get new roofs this spring, but the Gainesville school board is asking the community for input on how to proceed with Fair Street IB World School, which continues to deteriorate under heavy rains and electrical problems.

As the school board deliberated a plan to reroof the schools, firefighters investigated the cause of a small electrical fire at Fair Street that was sparked Monday evening when a custodian purchased a beverage from a vending machine in the teacher’s lounge.

Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada said the fire started when a wire shorted in an electrical outlet in the lounge. The fire caused no real damage, he said.

“It was just very minor,” Canada said.

City fire fighters responded to the scene shortly after the fire was reported around 6:30 p.m., Canada said. The fire was quickly contained, and never spread beyond the outlet.

Electricity was shut off from the break room and the smoke was cleared from the building, Canada said.

Fair Street Principal Will Campbell said because the custodian was in the lounge when the fire started, the fire did not spread. He said also the lounge, which Blackshear Place Baptist Church recently redecorated, has flame retardant curtains and carpeting.

The board left its options open on how to fix Fair Street, but unanimously allocated $200,000 to replace about one-third of the roof at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and reseam the remainder. The board also allocated $230,000 to replace about one-fourth of the roof at Wood’s Mill Academy, which is the old middle school. The repairs would include a new roof over the cafeteria. Bids for the repairs will go out in December or January.

Funds for the repairs come from the roughly $1.4 million leftover from the construction of the new $33 million middle school. At its work session this month, the board allocated $205,000 to repair the roof at Gainesville High School’s old gym.

The board discussed the poor condition of Fair Street’s roof, electrical system and plumbing, and are paving the way for a brand new Fair Street school. Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer estimates it will cost $10 million to $12 million to rebuild the school using special one-cent tax funds, or SPLOST funds, that voters could approve in 2011.

“In this case it’s more cost effective to replace it,” she said.

The board is considering using some of the remaining funds from the new middle school construction for surveying and architectural plans for a new Fair Street school. The board also is considering moving Fair Street students to Wood’s Mill Academy while the new school is being built.

Dyer said construction on a new Fair Street building could not begin until voters approve SPLOST and funds are allocated in 2012, but the board can situate itself to be ready to build once money comes through.

“All we can do is diligently watch and monitor everything until we can replace the building,” Dyer said of Fair Street.

Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith said the board wants to hear from the community on how they would like the board to proceed with the school that has educated many Gainesville residents.

“The school is a traditional and historic icon for the African American community, for which we all have great respect,” Smith said. “So it is from that community that we are looking for direction.”

Next week, Gainesville administrators will begin looking at new elementary schools built around the state in an effort to replicate a building already constructed. Dyer said the goal is to reduce architecture and design costs for the Fair Street building.

Dyer said a community meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Fair Street will field input from the parents, faculty and staff of Fair Street.

The Fair Street Alumni Association and the Fair Street Neighborhood Planning Unit also are invited.

Times reporter Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.

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