Over the course of several meetings, a group of more than 50 people met to discuss the future of Gainesville City Schools’ new middle school.
The committee of district employees and community members accomplished a number of tasks including narrowing down survey results to four school name options, deciding on a recommended mascot and agreeing upon a proposed attendance zone boundary.
During the Gainesville school board meeting on Monday, April 19, Superintendent Jeremy Williams shared the name choices for the new school, which were based on directional or historical aspects of Gainesville. The recommendations include: Gainesville Southern Middle School, South Gainesville Middle School, Midland Middle School or Queen City Middle School.
Gainesville residents, students and anyone else invested in the district wanting to vote on the new name can visit surveymonkey.com/r/RTTVDNR. One vote can be made per device. Williams said the district aims to have 10,000 people take the survey before the school year ends. The survey results will go back to the committee for discussion, then they will follow up with a recommendation to the school board.
Williams noted that around 15 names were first considered for the school, including those that contained the words Lanier, McEver, mountain or hill.
“We wanted to be as open as we could,” he said. “... There still may be a magic one out there, but these represent the city.”
The new middle school’s committee advocated for the mascot to be the Red Elephant, the highest rated option among committee members. Williams said the committee chose the Red Elephant based on three factors: unity and identity, extracurricular consistency and lessons learned from other districts. The committee explained in its report that the Valdosta City School system — the only other district in the state with two middle schools — changed both middle schools to the high school mascot. Colquitt County and Habersham County underwent similar changes.
The committee additionally recommended the Morrow Connector as its attendance zone boundary, which is divided by Dawsonville Highway, John Morrow Jr. Parkway and Queen City Parkway. The line cuts through the northwest to southeast corner of the city. Williams said the group aimed to create two equitable middle schools for Gainesville and considered roadway implications and balancing the demographics. The option is based on the current fourth through sixth grade students in the district.
With this proposed boundary, the new middle school, located off McEver Road, would have 827 students when it opens in August 2023, and Gainesville Middle School would have 856.
Williams said the new middle school would include 68.2% Hispanic, 16.7% Black, 5% Asian, 6.7% white and 3.1% multi-racial students. Gainesville Middle School would have demographics of 55.7% Hispanic, 19.5% Black, 1.5% Asian, 18.8% white and 4.3% multi-racial students.
“You’re not going to have anything that’s equally distributed, but it’s pretty close,” Williams said. “As a group, we looked at how these percentages compared to our elementary schools and the wide range or our elementary schools versus the middle school.”
The new middle school’s side of the boundary encompasses the entire attendance zones for Mundy Mill Learning Academy and Gainesville Exploration Academy, as well as portions of the zones for Fair Street International Academy and Centennial Arts Academy.