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Walk down memory lane at Gainesville High before it changes forever
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Gainesville High school Principal Jamie Green gestures to construction that is underway on the high school campus to erect an advanced studies building. - photo by Thomas Hartwell
The Gainesville High School campus is soon to undergo some significant renovations, and the Gainesville City School System wants to give alumni one last chance to see the school as they remember it.  

Gainesville High will be hosting an “Elephant Nostalgia Walk” from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, during which anyone in the Gainesville community is welcome to come to the high school campus to walk through the soon-to-be-demolished cafeteria, gym and CTAE building and reminisce.   

“With construction slated to begin here within the next month in that area, we wanted to provide the community an opportunity just to walk through those buildings one last time,” Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. “For some people, it might have been last week that they were in those buildings, and for others it might have been 10, 20 years ago that they’ve been in those buildings. People have some great memories in those areas, and we want them to be able to bring family and walk through them one final time.” 

Elephant Nostalgia Walk

What: Opportunity for alumni to walk campus before demolition of cafeteria, gym and CTAE buildings

When: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18

Where: Gainesville High School campus, 830 Century Place, Gainesville

The three buildings all date back more than 40 years. The cafeteria – the oldest standing building on the campus – was built in 1959, while the gym – the second-oldest building on the campus – dates back to 1960, according to Sammy Smith, treasurer for the Gainesville Board of Education. The CTAE building was built in the mid 1970s, per Smith. 

He said the school system is expecting a wide range of alumni to participate in the nostalgia walk, including some who were around for the construction of the current Gainesville High School campus in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  

“There are, of course, some great stories and fabulous memories from those buildings, and folks enjoy memories,” Smith said. “So, Sunday gives anyone an opportunity to stroll through at their leisure and relive and enjoy some of those memories.” 

Those interested in participating do not have to make an appointment and can arrive at any time between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday to walk the campus at their leisure. Williams said all participants must have a mask with them, which they will be required to wear while indoors or while unable to maintain social distancing. 

He added that the school system wanted to have a larger and more involved ceremony but decided due  to the COVID-19 pandemic to go with the more individualized option.  

“Because of COVID, we felt like a self-paced walkthrough is the way to go,” Williams said. “So, if somebody wants to spend more time in a certain area than another, they can do that. If they want to come walk through it individually or with their family or multiple generations, we’re encouraging that as well.” 

Sunday’s event is a chance for those in the Gainesville community to take a moment to look back, but Gainesville High School principal Jamie Green said it’s also an excellent opportunity to turn their attention to the future.  

The demolishing of older buildings will make room for a new cafeteria that seats 730, a new student activities center – which will include a gym with locker room facilities for all Gainesville High athletic programs and a new band room – and a new advanced studies building, where higher level classes will be held. All told, the additions will cost the school system $51 million, , paid for primarily through the bond resolution approved by voters in June.  

“I think we’re probably going to have what I’ll argue to be the best high school campus in the state,” Green said. “And we think it’s what our families deserve. We want to have a facility that matches the potential of the community.” 

Green said he is excited to embrace the new features soon to arrive on the Gainesville High School campus, but he’s hoping the nostalgia walk this Sunday will also provide the school with an opportunity to make sure the memories of the past live on in the new building.  

He said he plans on talking with visiting alumni to find out what their favorite aspects of the old buildings are and making sure the most fondly remembered parts of the old buildings are somehow integrated into the new ones. 

“We’re really excited at the idea of hosting our alums and learning what about the existing facilities they want to see preserved in some kind of way, shape or form in the new buildings, or at least honored in the new buildings,” Green said. “We are looking forward to this very much.” 

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