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Gainesville officials believe cluster choice plan can help spread students evenly
District leaders seek to allow preferences but need to balance enrollment
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Gainesville City School System sought to balance out enrollment between elementary school when it redrew attendance zones in February. Elementary schools were organized into two clusters, with Fair Street IB World School clustered with Centennial, New Holland and Enota. Fair Street will also be led by a new principal in the next academic year when current principal William Campbell, pictured during a lunch period, will leave to take on a new role as a superintendent in Minnesota. - photo by David Barnes

Gainesville school officials wanted to balance enrollment between elementary schools when they changed school choice rules earlier this year.

Some progress has been made on that goal, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said, with the latest 2018-19 enrollment projections in hand.

Gainesville school enrollment

First number for each school is for 2017-18; second is projected for 2018-19

Centennial: 852; 870

Enota: 663; 725

Fair Street: 463; 390

Gainesville: 753; 665

Mundy Mill: 449; 480

New Holland: 740; 655

Source: Gainesville City School System

Note: The projected numbers do not align with current enrollment because about 50 school choice forms have not yet been returned. Kindergarten sign-ups are not yet complete, as well. No pre-K numbers are included.

Parents previously could choose their child’s elementary school, with the exception of those in the new Mundy Mill Academy district. In February, the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a redrawing of attendance zones and dividing elementary schools into two clusters, with parents choosing their child’s school within their zoned cluster.

One cluster will include Centennial, Fair Street, New Holland and Enota elementary schools. The other will include Mundy Mill and Gainesville Exploration academies.

Balancing enrollment will continue to be a challenge school officials face going forward, Williams said. But officials were pleased that fewer students were affected by the zoning and cluster changes than expected.

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Gainesville City School System sought to balance out enrollment between elementary schools when it redrew attendance zones in February. Elementary schools were organized into two clusters, with Fair Street IB World School clustered with Centennial, New Holland and Enota. Fair Street will also be lead by a new principal in the next academic year when current principal William Campbell will leave to take on a new role as a superintendent in Minnesota. - photo by David Barnes
About 6.5 percent, or 205 students out of 3,140 who had responded by April 16, had to move schools because of changes made to attendance zones and the addition of clusters. But that was lower than expected; officials had estimated about 12 percent students would be impacted.

“We are pleased with the low number of students and families impacted by the clusters,” Williams said. “The actual number of families impacted was much lower than initially anticipated.”

Centennial, Enota and Mundy Mill will have slightly increased enrollment, while Gainesville Exploration, New Holland and Fair Street will have fewer students.

“The decrease in enrollment at Gainesville Exploration Academy and New Holland was intended,” Williams said, adding that it allows the school system to remove or limit the use of mobile units at these schools.

Williams said officials had hoped the enrollment numbers at Fair Street would increase next year, but they instead have fallen slightly. Principal William Campbell announced last month he is taking a job in Minnesota.

Campbell told The Times that he is working to make his departure as “comfortable” as possible for his students, staff and administration.

“When we’re talking about stability, we have a stable, competent, veteran staff,” he said.

Campbell said his priorities included shoring up school funding and aligning the budget with an ongoing “school improvement process.”

Campbell will remain with Fair Street until this academic year is complete next month.

“When I leave, whoever is the next principal and team can continue that process,” he said.

“With Mr. Campbell’s recent announcement and a principal decision being made in the next couple of weeks, we look forward to stability at Fair Street and increasing enrollment,” Williams said.

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Gainesville City School System sought to balance out enrollment between elementary schools when it redrew attendance zones in February. Elementary schools were organized into two clusters, with Fair Street IB World School clustered with Centennial, New Holland and Enota. - photo by David Barnes
The zoning changes also allowed the school system to expand pre-K to all elementary schools beginning this fall.

Currently, Gainesville provides eight pre-K classes at New Holland Knowledge Academy and one at Mundy Mill Academy.

Beginning this fall, there will be two classes held at Centennial, Enota, Gainesville Exploration and Mundy Mill, while Fair Street and New Holland will have one class each.

Additionally, the system is now able to expand self-contained special education classes to each of the elementary schools. Currently, Fair Street hosts three, Enota two and Centennial one.

Williams said a seventh class may be added at one of the schools.

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Students at Fair Street IB World School will be led by a new principal in the next academic year when current principal William Campbell will leave to take on a new role as a superintendent in Minnesota. - photo by David Barnes
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