The Gainesville city school board was accused Monday night of “violating our charter,” of displaying “contempt” toward the community and was asked to “get back to listening to the citizens of Gainesville” over its recent vote to proceed with an original plan for demolishing and replacing Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.
The board voted unanimously in a June 2 called meeting to continue with the architects’ plans as presented earlier this year. That plan calls for grading the school site to be nearly level, reducing the portion of the land where the school and the Smartville garden are now by about 6 feet.
The grading would destroy the garden, and the current playground would be leveled with the remainder of the site. The plan would also double the amount of parking space at the school.
Two sets of minutes that included mention of the Enota building plans were not approved. Neither set of minutes received a motion for approval. The minutes were for the called meeting June 2 and the regular meeting June 6.
Four people spoke at the Monday board meeting, and they opposed the action the board took. More than 50 people attended the meeting, including groups about the Enota building and from Leadership Hall County.
Ginny Early, a parent at Enota and a member of the school governance council, said she had presented a letter to the board at its May 16 meeting that accused the board of “violating our charter” because it “squashed any opportunity” for serious community comment about the building process.
She noted the board has not responded to her letter or comments. She called the lack of response “just another further example for the contempt displayed.”
She complained that the notice for the called meeting June 2 was inadequate. No one except school officials or board members attended the meeting.
Early said the board should follow the process it used when Fair Street School was built. That process worked “beautifully,” she said, and lived up to the “Gainesville tradition of deep community involvement.”
Two former teachers, Gail Ingram and Susan Brooksher, opposed the board’s actions.
Ingram said the “process was extremely fast” from the time the board said it would build a new school to the announcement in May. “That didn’t allow for much input,” she said.
Ingram said the board “seems to have ignored community input.”
Brooksher emphasized the garden at the school is “not a teachers’ garden; it’s a students’ garden.”
She also noted that “everything pretty much is going to be cut down” with the plan approved by the board.
Carl Rogers, a retiring member of the state legislature, questioned whether the board’s action is “constitutional” and cited a section of the state constitution that calls for detailing the “specific capital outlay” for education special purpose local option sales tax projects or the debt to be retired on those projects. He also said the ballot question for E-SPLOST listed “renovation and building.” It did not “include the word tearing down anything,” he said.
When Brett Mercer, the board’s vice chair, introduced “citizens’ comments” he said the board would not directly respond but “we’ll get back to you within a week.” Early said she was glad to hear that since she did not get a response after the May 16 meeting.