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‘Everybody's fired up’: Gainesville’s newest school opens on first day
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Students make their way down the hall of the new Gainesville Middle School West campus Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, for the first day of the 2022-23 school year. - photo by Scott Rogers

On the first day of school in Gainesville, teachers said they were excited about a “fresh slate” with the opening of the city’s new school, Gainesville Middle School West. 

The original middle school, Gainesville Middle School East, had become so overcrowded that some teachers had to convert storage closets into classrooms. 

“We can breathe,” said Aisha Simmons-Webb, a marketing teacher. “It just feels new — the culture, the environment itself, the students seem excited.” 

“Everybody’s fired up,” she said. 

Patricia Morrison, a Spanish teacher, said classrooms at the eastern campus were pushing 30 students. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has waned as well, and teachers are happy to get back to doing what they do best. 

“We're ready to teach and get them going,” Morrison said. “And getting their scores up and enabling them now to be the students that they need to be.” 

Gainesville Middle School West is 185,000 square feet and cost about $38 million. About half of the 1,600 students at the eastern campus transferred over. 

Students in Gainesville have tended to lag the statewide Milestones scores, and the pandemic has contributed to considerable learning loss.

Another consequence of the pandemic is a loss of social skills among students, Morrison said. She said she makes her students line up every morning for an exercise in social etiquette. 

“They have to learn eye contact and say ‘buenos dias’ to me, and if not, they go to the end of the line,” she said. “They lost a lot of social skills during that COVID time.” 

Principal Louis Mair said the morning had gone smoother than he expected. 

“We have a beautiful environment, and everyone is excited,” he said. “The staff, they’re ready to go. They want to educate these scholars. They want to support them 100%.” 

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Gainesville Middle School West students watch a video Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, to kick off their first day of school for the 2022-23 school year at the new school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Teacher Stephanie Thomas directs students as they arrive at Gainesville Middle School West campus Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, for the first day of the 2022-23 school year at the new school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Students arrive by bus at Gainesville Middle School West campus Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, for the first day of the 2022-23 school year at the new school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Students arrive at the new Gainesville Middle School West campus Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, for the first day of the 2022-23 school year at the new school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Gainesville Middle School West Spanish teacher Patricia Morrison prepares for the first day of classes Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, as students arrive for the first day of the 2022-23 school year at the school. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Gainesville Middle School West teacher Aisha Simmons-Webb, right, and Patricia Morrison stand outside their classrooms as students arrives Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, for the first day of the 2022-23 school year at the new school. - photo by Scott Rogers