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Community shows excitement for new Fair Street school
Meeting shows a glimpse of construction plans for the future building
Gainesville City Schools Associate Superintendent David Shumake shows an artist’s rendering of the new Fair Street International Baccalaureate School during a meeting with the community at the Fair Street Community Center Monday evening.

If a picture's worth 1,000 words, the artist's rendering of the new Fair Street school building could be worth about 100,000 — one for each square foot of the state-of-the-art facility.

"I think it's going to be gorgeous ..." said Kim Davis, assistant principal at Fair Street. "I think it looks like an old train station. We wanted it to look old so it would fit the community, but yet be modern and everything our children need."

About 20 members of the Fair Street neighborhood came out Monday to discuss issues, celebrations and the construction timeline with contractors and architects.

When the new home for Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School opens late in 2013, visitors will walk underneath a bell tower into Heritage Hall and see the history of Fair Street chronicled on both sides of a 45-foot long corridor.

The two-story plan features two playgrounds, one for upper grades and one for lower. There are elevators and stairs to accommodate students' needs, and administrative offices will be on both floors.

After school gets out, the community will have access to the school's 350-seat gymnasium, two computer labs, the media center, a meeting room and an outdoor amphitheater.

Duane Roof of Robertson Loia Roof told school board administrators and community members Monday night the construction would work around as much of the existing landscape as possible.

Demolition, the first physical phase of the process, will take place some time in January with the finished product ready in December 2013.

"And even though we have to take the buildings down, we hope when this is done you can go to this site and remember what was there. There will be enough features left to show where areas used to be," Roof said.

Charles Morrow wanted to make sure the school did not have a flat roof, one thing that led to the original building's problems during rainstorms.

Water collected on the roof and ran into classrooms, leaving administrators and teachers covering books with trash bags and putting buckets in the hallways.

Roof and Jeff Couch, design engineer on the project, assured him the roof was pitched at one-quarter inch per foot and made of a material that would resist water in the event it did collect.

Another thing community members wondered was if the school was built to house about 700 students, close to the amount already enrolled, it will open already overcrowded.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merianne Dyer said that was from state funding. When a new school needs to be built, the state only gives enough money to build for what the school has, not to plan for future growth.

Gainesville City Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras was present at the meeting and said she could hardly stand waiting for children to start school at the new Fair Street.

"I think a lot of people were worried that this wouldn't really happen. It's almost like a dream they weren't really sure would come true," Davis said. "I think people are happy this is a reality. The minor things, construction traffic and demolition traffic may bother a few people. But everyone in this community is excited about this and it's such a well-used building that this tiny portion of time is nothing. The growing pains will be well worth it."

Many in the community echoed her thoughts. Roof said this was one of the first projects he's worked on where the neighborhood was so involved with the construction process.

"It's an A-grade. I'm proud of it," said Fair Street resident Eugene Whelchel. "Prayers have gone out for this. I think from the struggle here, we've got a phoenix rising up we can carry on for another 100 years."