Supporters of maintaining the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy garden wonder if “it might be wise to take a pause” on construction plans and study, in depth, the possibility of retaining the garden.
Four supporters talked about the garden Saturday morning, its value to the community and school and how best to maintain it.
All four attended a meeting April 14 with school officials, architects and engineers to discuss the site and the proposed new school.
At that meeting, they learned the proposed design would lower the level of the ground about 6 feet to make the school property level, and the existing garden would become a parking lot.
“We asked that they try to find a way to preserve the idea of this garden where it is,” Mark Fockele said.
The four — Fockele, Sally Meadors, Carolyn Mahar and John Girardeau — emphasized their desire, and hope, that a new building can be constructed and maintain the garden.
“I don’t want to be unreasonable, but it’s important,” Girardeau said.
“I helped plant the garden. I help maintain it. I know the garden has great value,” he explained. “It really distresses me — the idea that it (the garden) would be destroyed.”
Girardeau suggested the school district might delay a decision on design until the question of preserving the garden can be thoroughly studied.
The supporters agreed on their belief garden preservation has not been one of the primary factors in potential designs.
“We don’t want to set up a contention between the building and the garden,” Fockele said, but he also added the concept of “whether both can be accommodated” has not been studied thoroughly.
The four agreed that information about possible alternatives are likely to require more time than the two weeks allocated.
The school district has set a called board meeting for 3 p.m. Thursday for architects and engineers to discuss the alternative of a retaining wall.
Fockele and Girardeau said information is sketchy about the possibilities for preservation. For example, Fockele mentioned, no one yet knows the specific size or dimensions of a retention wall.
Mahar asked whether the design could be changed to move the building farther on the site away from the garden.
“Our approach has been that we wonder what possibilities might emerge,” Fockele said.
He also noted that school officials talk about preserving plants, but he said, “By far, the majority of these plants are too big to be moved, practically.”
Most were planted when they were much smaller, he said, and have grown through the years.
“Money can’t buy what has happened over the last eight years,” he said.
Fockele also pointed out the proposed design has a “place that’s labeled a new garden, but there’s no money to put one in.”
The four noted that Wanda Creel, superintendent for Gainesville, said the supporters likely would have to raise money for a new garden.
Meadors, principal at Enota who developed the idea for the garden expansion, said more than $100,000 had been donated and spent on the plants and watering system plus “thousands” of volunteer hours.
She suggested the process had moved quickly — and supporters believe more time could help resolve the garden’s preservation.
Creel said Thursday the school district is “early in the process” for the design of the new school.