Why not delay construction of a new building for Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Nate Early asked in two “brainstorming” sessions Saturday at the school.
Early asked, “is there a third way?” for a new school to be constructed.
He spoke in sessions about a garden plan and campus operations — and said a delay could result in a better plan.
“Is it an option to wait a few years and come up with a great plan to save the garden?” he asked in the first session.
“Why are we rushing,” Early asked in the operations meeting. He said it seems the current planning for Enota is “contingent on a construction project at Centennial (Arts Academy) being completed on time. That seems ridiculous to me.”
About 20 people attended the sessions Saturday morning at Enota. Principal Wesley Roach said, “We don’t want to leave any good idea undiscovered” in introducing the topics.
Three of the topics focused on the move of Enota students from the current school and then back to a new building — campus operation, events and program and communications.
The fourth one was about the Smartville garden: keeping it as is, starting new to create a garden or establishing another process.
Roach also said the school system is preparing an electronic survey for parents or residents to make comments about the entire process. Superintendent Wanda Creel said she expects that survey to be available through the system’s website, www.gcssk12.net, this week.
Architects and engineers presented the outline of a plan Thursday that would create a retaining wall where the outside wall of the school is now along the end of the building. The school tract would be leveled by reducing the level of the current school area 6 feet and moving that dirt to the current playground area. The new school building, which is planned for two stories, would be 25 feet from the retaining wall.
Making the site level would help meet federal laws and state regulations that have been created since the school has been built, officials said, particularly making the site accessible to people with disabilities.
Creel said the project could be delayed, but conditions at the school are such that the students there do not have the same quality of instruction as at other city schools.
She cited pipes that “sound like a foghorn” when toilets are flushed, bringing classrooms to a halt, and the physical education teacher’s desk in a hall along with storage for equipment.
Creel said the Board of Education must balance support for the garden, and its value, with the need to provide Enota students the same kind of educational opportunity that other city students have.
“That is the urgency,” she said.
Before the sessions started, Roach, talking about the garden, said, “We want to know how’s the best way to go forward and to remain true to our commitment that Enota will have a garden.”
Parts of the suggestions from school officials were dismissed by participants in one session. Preserving plants to be replanted in a new garden is “not feasible,” Mildred Fockele, one of the garden’s organizers, said.
“Probably 10 percent of the plants out there are salvageable,” she said. “Most of them have been in the ground too long and are too big.”
Allowing community members to “adopt” plants for the period of school construction would not work either, she said,
“It really needs to be done by professionals,” she explained, adding the plants would have to be dug up properly, the root ball maintained and stored to maintain them.
Supporters of the garden also complained about the lack of commitment from the city schools to a new garden. Money has not been designated for a new garden, several noted. The $100,000 for landscaping is for the entire site, not a new garden.
Board chairwoman Delores Diaz said Thursday a portion of that money probably could be used for a new garden.
Mark Fockele, who designed the rainwater harvesting drain system for the garden, said more than $100,000 was spent on the current garden.
Gail Sargent said she would like the board to commit to preserving the garden to “honor all the heart and soul and all the hours and all the money” that has gone into it.
Early said a delay in the project could be done because the SPLOST money, which will pay for the new building, is a five-year process and this is the first year. A delay, he said, “gives us time to come up with a better solution.”