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Enota move grows concerns over garden's placement
Officials promise new building design includes space for plants
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A couple of picnic tables are planted in the middle of the “Smartville” garden at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy in Gainesville. The discussion of preserving parts of the garden is ongoing as a new school building is planned for the Enota site. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Brainstorming sessions

What: Two sessions about the new Enota building project and transition plan

When: 9:30 and 11 a.m. Saturday, April 30

Where: Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy cafeteria, 1340 Enota Ave. NE, Gainesville

Topics: Campus operations, garden planning, communications and events/programs.

The new building for Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy would change the look of the elementary school property, if current plans are followed, but some community members have objected and asked for a change in the design.

“The entire site would be changed. That’s a piece of the concern,” Wanda Creel, superintendent for Gainesville City Schools, said Thursday.

“A great deal of grading would be done where the current school sits,” Creel said.

The property would be flat when a new building is constructed. Because of the grading, the Enota garden, which wraps around one end of the school, would be destroyed.

Creel said plans include removing plants and preserving them until they can be replanted.

“I believe the preservation of the existing garden was never considered in the new building, which I was very sad about,” Ginny Early, vice chairwoman of the school’s governance council, said Friday.

Construction on the new building is planned to start in January. Enota students will be moved to the Centennial Arts Academy campus for one year, starting with winter break in December until January 2018.

School board chairwoman Delores Diaz and vice chairman Brett Mercer joined Creel to talk about the issue.

Creel said the property now is “domed” and the hill would be lowered by about 6 feet. The dirt removed would go in the area of the playground to level that part of the property.

That led to a meeting April 14 among school officials, parents, garden supporters, the architect and engineers.

Those supporting the garden expressed “concern regarding the placement of the building on the site,” Creel said.

The idea of a retaining wall around the garden “emerged” during that discussion, Mark Fockele said Saturday.

Engineers are looking at the idea and will present information to the board and community at 3 p.m. Thursday in a called meeting, Creel said.

“It’s possible that preservation could be cost-comparable, or even more cost-effective, than construction of an entirely new garden and irrigation/stormwater-collection system,” Early said by email.

Supporters of the garden also have started petitions with the message, “help us save the Enota garden.”

Creel said the grading would serve several purposes. Those include meeting ADA requirements by keeping all facilities on one level; promoting better egress onto Enota Drive for leaving the campus; appropriate staging of buses and cars for student drop-off and pickup; and meeting requirements for emergency vehicle access to the building and all other state requirements.

Part of the change would be to double the amount of parking at the school from just over 100 spaces to 213, and part of the new parking would be where the garden now is.

She reiterated the district’s plans for creating a garden at the new school.

“The intent has never changed from the very first time we talked about the need to preserve the garden,” Creel said.

She said current plans would have the science class on the right and rear of the building, with a door outside to a portion of the garden. Plants also would have additional space in front of the school, where sidewalks would be moved away from the building to provide room and along the rear where a mostly glass wall would allow people in the cafeteria to see the plants.

The school may hold plant sales, allowing individuals to dig up bulbs and plants from the current garden. The money could help buy new bulbs or plants.

Early said school officials said April 14 that money would have to be raised to replace the garden. She said Creel told the group a way to raise money would be needed “if we do want to build a new garden.”

Early said other facilities around the country have “been designed around existing features” and she hopes that could be done here.

She said the garden “was and still is a huge community project.”

“The tradition is to have a garden, not this particular garden,” Diaz said.

“We’ve got to do something with that building,” she added. “It’s important to me that (Enota has) the same quality of facility that our other students have — and right now, they don’t.”

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