It’s no secret Gainesville Middle School’s more than 1,800 student population has surpassed its building capacity.
If a bond referendum and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education pass on March 24, then Gainesville City Schools could be looking at a second middle school in a couple of years.
Adrian Niles, Gainesville City Schools’ chief operations officer, said $32 million would go toward adding the new building in the area of Gainesville Exploration and Mundy Mill academies.
This building is a part of the system’s $83 million five-year facility plan, which would be funded with the tax revenues and bond. Other projects include a proposed $51 million redesign of Gainesville High School’s campus; $8 million for construction of new gymnasiums at Centennial Arts, Gainesville Exploration and New Holland Knowledge academies; and $3 million to renovate City Park stadium and the Walt Snelling press box.
Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams said the proposed E-SPLOST, which spans five years, is expected to bring in $7-$7.5 million per year. He said three more E-SPLOSTs would be needed to fully pay off the $83 million requested in bonds.
The proposed site for the new middle school is located off of McEver Road, across from the old Free Chapel site.
Niles said the preliminary checklist from the Georgia Department of Education has gone well, and the district is conducting studies on the land.
“We want to make sure that the property is feasible for building on,” Niles said. “We’re excited about a new middle school. If everything goes well in March with the bond referendums, we actually look to break ground on the new middle school fall or winter of this year.”
Williams said the building would automatically alleviate 750-900 students from Gainesville Middle.
The school would start off with those students but will have the capacity to hold 1,200. Williams said the current fifth graders would become the new school’s first eighth graders.
The proposed property stretches over 22.7 acres, and 25% of the land will need to be annexed, Williams said. The project’s contractor is Robertson Loia Roof Architects & Engineers.
Niles said the two-story building would encompass 160,000 square feet and be equipped with multiple science labs, a multi-purpose field to the left of its front entrance and a full-size gymnasium. The school's cafeteria would seat over 700 students.
The district doesn’t have any renderings of the building’s exterior design, but Niles said they have a basic site map.
Williams said the district will work with students and families, who will be involved with the new school, to come up with ideas for its name, color scheme, mascot and other details.
“We did that with Mundy Mill and we plan to do the same with the new middle school,” Williams said. “We hope to grow it out, so when we open, we’ll already have parent involvement and the key for the school to be successful.”
If the bond referendums and EPLOST VI don’t pass, Williams said the project will be put on hold, so the district can look to secure other funding.
For now, Williams and Niles encourage community members to get out and vote on March 24. Early voting in the special election began March 2.
“We’re positive and hopeful that we’ll have the support of our voters, but, again, as we look at providing really safe facilities for learning that meet the needs of our students in the 21st century,” Niles said. “We believe that we’ve put together a very good package for the voters to look at.”