It’s out with the old and in with the new at Gainesville High School.
Earlier this week, school officials cut the ribbon on the high school’s new kitchen, cafeteria and media center, just in time for the start of the new year.
The center is housed in the main building, with the kitchen and cafeteria on the ground floor and the media center on the second floor.
“It's exciting for our kids that what we promised we're following through with,” said Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams.
Adrian Niles, chief operations officer for the school system, said they came in on budget with a total cost of approximately $11 million.
The cafeteria is about 11,000 square feet and can hold about 740 students. The new upstairs media center is about 10,000 square feet and can hold about 204 students. The school system worked with Carroll Daniel Construction and RLR Architects and Engineers.
The new cafeteria sits about 100 yards from the old one, built in 1959, which is now little more than a heap of rubble. A three-story Student Activities Center will stand in its place when construction wraps up in August. It will have 36 to 40 classrooms, Niles said.
The new cafeteria is a far cry from the “Red Shed,” an outdoor pavilion with a red tin roof where many students ate their lunch, built in 1988.
Brandy Thomas, the high school’s nutrition manager for 10 years, could hardly contain her excitement about the new cafeteria.
“It’s like a food court,” Thomas said. “It’s something we've been waiting on for years, because the building we were at was so little and old. And this is just great.”
Williams noted several standout features of the new cafeteria. First and foremost, he said, is the “state-of-the-art” kitchen, where stainless steel seems to cover every square inch. It also offers ample visibility of the surrounding buildings.
“It gives you that dining experience,” Williams said.
The campus now has two cafeterias. The other is housed in the Ninth Grade Center, where students there will eat their lunch for the remainder of the school year.
“Because we have 13 buildings across the campus, some of our students who are up there during the day eat lunch up there at that cafeteria,” Williams said. “Then next year, the entire school will be eating in (the new) cafeteria.”
The design of the media center is modern and sleek, colored by red and black and gray. It includes conference rooms, tech-integrated furniture, spaces for group work and presentations, and a computer lab. The computer lab, where students gather with their laptops for instruction, offers a view of the campus that extends all the way to Lakeshore Mall.
The soft-touch furniture, some of it stacked like giant legos and some of it wavy and fit for lounging, is “flexible,” Williams said. It can easily be moved around and rearranged.
“It doesn't feel like school, and that's what we wanted to accomplish with all of this construction,” he said. “Our kids, once they get in there, they're not really going to want to leave.”
Williams said “2022 is a year of a lot of finality with our construction.”
The Advanced Studies Center was built last August, and Williams said the Student Activities Center and the new middle school, Gainesville Middle School West Campus, will open this coming August.
“We've been talking about it and working on it for the last three to four years,” he said, “but now we're able to see the fruits of our labor.”