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Changes coming to Gainesville Woods Mill
Academy at Wood’s Mill students wait for buses to arrive Monday afternoon after school in Gainesville.

Changes are coming to the Gainesville school campus currently known as Wood’s Mill.

The Academy at Wood’s Mill is a nontraditional learning environment with smaller class sizes focused on student strengths and interests. The school’s campus is currently home to four different programs in the Gainesville City Schools system, but the name and structure of the campus will change next year.

The school was a topic of conversation at the March Board of Education meeting, when a resident expressed concern the school had been in danger of closing.

“The school was never going to close,” said Gainesville Superintendent Wanda Creel. “Where the miscommunication occurred is in that we are going to use that facility that currently has four different programs in it differently. It has the Academy at Wood’s Mill, it has the FUTURES Program, the registration center and the Gainesville Learning Academy, or our

alternative school.”

Next year, the school building now housing the Academy at Wood’s Mill will instead house the new Gainesville High School Ninth Grade Center, for first-time ninth-graders only.

Creel said other locations have been found to house the three other programs in the school. Registration will move to the central office, and the FUTURES Program — serving students with severe emotional or behavior difficulties — will move to a location in Habersham County.

“The Gainesville Learning Academy is going to a stand-alone modular, where only the Gainesville Learning Academy students will be, as well as a stand-alone modular for the Academy at Wood’s Mill,” Creel said.

The modular facilities will be adjacent to the new ninth-grade center. They will have 12 classrooms each, and Wood’s Mill Principal Daryl White stressed they are not the same as trailers.

Currently, there are 181 students enrolled at the

Academy at Wood’s Mill in grades six through 12. Beginning next year, this nontraditional environment will house fewer students, as it will no longer be available for sixth- through eighth- graders.

“Our numbers will probably decrease a little bit because it’s going to be a (grades) nine to 12 school,” White said. “Usually we have about 120-125 students in ninth to 12th grade.”

Along with this change, Creel said the system will change the name of the Academy at Wood’s Mill for the sake of clarity.

“We want to make sure we can correctly communicate with our community exactly what this nontraditional school is about, and we think renaming it is probably our best bet,” she said. “So we are going to work with our teachers and faculty, and we are going to rename Wood’s Mill since it’s not going to be in that facility.”

Creel said, though changes are coming, the system is still supporting students in offering a nontraditional option.

White said the school will continue to offer its blended learning, online learning and twilight learning programs.

“‘One size fits all’ usually really doesn’t,” White said. “It’s that way in clothes and it’s that way in education as well. Some students need the flexibility offered at a nontraditional school, and many students like the blended learning aspect where you have a teacher and a computer. It gives students an opportunity to either catch up or to really excel.”