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Fair Street School demolition set for Monday
Process to take 6 weeks; new school to cost $15 million
The old Fair Street school is scheduled to be demolished Monday morning. - photo by Tom Reed

The Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School will take the first step in its makeover when demolition begins at 8 a.m. Monday.

"It's very exciting for us because everyone asks us every week ‘When are they tearing down Fair Street?,' and we didn't know any more than anybody else," said Kim Davis, Fair Street's assistant principal.

The bids for the project went out at the end of January, and paperwork had to be approved at the state level before any construction could begin.

"There was a period of time after the bids were accepted for this demolition, but we've come to the time when we're ready to do it," said Merrianne Dyer, Gainesville City Schools superintendent.

Demolition will start with the two-story older portion of the building and the entire process, including all pre-construction activities, will span six weeks.

At the end of that time, the land will be ready for a new building, which is scheduled to take 18 months to construct.

The school should be ready to move in by December 2013 if all goes to plan.

Until then, the school is based out of the Wood's Mill campus, where it has been since last July, sharing the space with other schools and day cares.

"It's really not so bad (sharing the space)," Davis said. "It's really working well."

The Fair Street project is estimated to cost around $15 million.

According to Dyer, the state will fund more than $5.3 million of the project, while the rest will come from general obligation bonds, which total $19 million. The bonds will subsidize special purpose local option sales tax money until those funds can be collected.

"We planned very conservatively, meaning we planned for any eventuality," said Dyer of the Fair Street project. "We're hoping to come in under the $15 (million), and
expecting to, actually."

The remaining SPLOST money, along with $1 million in additional state funding, will pay for other renovation projects in the city, including interior renovations at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and various work at Wood's Mill High School and Centennial Arts Academy.

"For the past 20 years, Gainesville City Schools, and all the schools in the area, had such rapid growth that we were just trying to keep up with building facilities (to match the enrollment)," Dyer said. "This is the first education SPLOST that we've been able to spend on replacing, remodeling and repairing some of the older buildings that we have."

Fair Street has been a staple in the community for more than 75 years.

It was built in 1936 and has worn many hats in the local education world. It was first opened as a school for black children in Hall and Lumpkin counties, but after integration in 1969, it was converted into a sixth- and seventh-grade school.

Before becoming Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in 2007, it housed just grades three through five from 1981-86, then just fourth and fifth until 2003 when it converted to a pre-k through fifth-grade school.

The school's rich history makes it hard for many to say goodbye. As a former student and current administrator, Davis, said, it will be "bittersweet."