By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fair Street school expected to have bright future
Construction to be complete in 2 years
Placeholder Image

Tuesday marks the last day students will travel through the halls of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.

The nearly 75-year-old structure will be torn down in September and will be replaced with what the faculty, students and community hope is a better environment for teaching the leaders of tomorrow.

"I'm hoping that it not only will be a good place for learning, but a good place to hang around for the kids who want to come to school more," said Emory Turner, a member of the Fair Street-Butler High Alumni Association who attended Fair Street in the 1950s. "It will be a building that we don't want to leave."

The project, which the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education estimated will cost $10 million to $12 million, will be a welcome respite for Fair Street administrators, who have dealt with countless electrical, heating and rain problems in the past few years.

"What these kids have endured over the last couple of years, they deserve a new school," said Thomas Haley, president of the Alumni Association. "As much as we hate to see it leave the community as this building, we are looking forward to seeing the new building come in and help the kids have a better education."

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the cost to repair Fair Street was going to far exceed the cost of starting from scratch. The last major renovations were in 1987 with a few touch-ups in the years following.

"In 2010, the facilities division of Department of Education did a Facility Review," Dyer said. "A list of critical repairs and renovations for Fair Street was included in the review. Estimates to bring the building to standard were between $9 (million) and $10 million."

She said the decision to rebuild was based on the eligibility for $5 million to add to the special purpose local option sales tax money funding the project.

Architects have already drawn up preliminary plans of what the new building, expected to be completed within the next two years, will look like.

"When I saw this picture, I started to cry because I've just never known anything this nice," Assistant Principal Kim Davis said. "We told the architects at our very first meeting that we wanted something that looked old but wasn't old. We're trying to keep all our traditions but put them in a new place."

Some of these traditions tentatively include Heritage Hall, which will serve as a miniature museum housing memorabilia from Fair Street's history, and a bell tower to hold the bell fifth graders ring after their commencement ceremony.

In addition to traditions, there are dreams of better technology at the new Fair Street.

"If you look at what's going on in schools now, this one is behind," Turner said. "I was one of the ones who had a chance to visit newer schools in this area to make a decision of what this one might look like, and what I saw and what they have here is like the dark ages."

Davis, who attended Fair Street in the sixth and seventh grades, said she is looking forward to the potential for growth in the student population as well as community involvement.

"We will still have that part of the building that will still be open to the community, but we will also be able to close off the rest of the school," she said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time we don't have a problem, but it'll be nice to know that our classrooms and technology, the things we worry about over the weekend, will be nice and safe. And people can come use the building and we don't have to worry about anything happening."

Teachers had to turn in educational plans to the architects, detailing what activities would be done in their parts of the building. Turner said he can't wait for the community to be able to do the same thing.

"We always want to make sure that it remains basically the same Fair Street that we know without staying the old structure," he said.

Kendall Thompson, a former student and media clerk at Fair Street, said the school's atmosphere will never change, no matter what the building looks like.

"The families generation after generation will always feel like they can come back here and this is a part of their community," she said, adding that nearly 2,500 visitors use the school's facilities annually.

Fair Street's entire student and faculty population will be using their "summer home" at Wood's Mill High School, Davis said. She wishes the school would be complete by fall 2012, in time for Fair Street's 75th birthday but said it would probably be 2013 before teachers could move back in.

As for Davis, the reconstruction is just becoming a reality. She said it has taken watching other teachers and students pack up belongings and prepare for the July 4 move-out date, (her own office, she insists, will remain unpacked for as long as possible), for it to really sink in.

"It's where I've been for 24 years as an adult, and I'm just very comfortable here," Davis said. "I'm looking forward to coming back here knowing this is our home. This is our neighborhood."

 

Regional events