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Gainesville school board OKs plan for Enota school project
Current Smartville garden will be removed, but space planned for a new one
A plan for a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy has been approved by the Gainesville Board of Education.

A new school will be constructed at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, and the plan is to open that school for the 2018-19 school year.

The Gainesville Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday to approve an option that would lower the elevation of the school, move the site of the large playground and bring traffic off Enota Avenue to school property farther west on Enota.

It also would remove the current Smartville garden. The plans include a space for a new garden, but the budget does not include funds for that.

The new building is expected to cost about $17.6 million. The school district expects to receive about $6.5 million from the state for the project. The state money is calculated based on the age of the building and needs such as new wiring or classroom space, Gainesville Superintendent Wanda Creel said.

The other $11.1 million would come from Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V money, school officials have said.

The plan would require about $100,000 more than the first design submitted in February. That additional money is largely for grading, Creel said.

Vehicle traffic would come off Enota farther from the school, and space for an additional 75 cars would be on school property, removing that number from the street. Buses would come off South Enota Drive to the front of the school.

The parking area would be extended into the current playground area, and it would be angled toward the back of the lot and parallel to the main parking, new garden space and rear of the building.

A new building for Enota has been discussed for nearly a year. The called meeting Wednesday was attended by only two members of the public. Supporters of preserving the Smartville garden, who have attended most of the meetings since March, were not at the meeting.

The board met for an hour before arriving at the vote — and discussed items ranging from not building a new Enota school to moving the sixth grade to all elementary schools and relieving overcrowding at Gainesville Middle School to constructing a new middle school to a series of changes to the design on such items as transom windows and old growth trees near the flagpole.

Board member Willie Mitchell made the motion to approve the new design. Brett Mercer, the board vice chairman, seconded the motion.

Board member Sammy Smith offered six amendments to the motion, but he withdrew them with the promise that an item would be on the next board agenda to discuss those suggestions.

Mitchell had said he supported getting information, and cost estimates, on Smith’s suggestions, but he did not want them as part of the motion to approve the school.

Mercer introduced a new topic — using the E-SPLOST money for building a new middle school. Mercer has raised the prospect of a new middle school and/or a new high school because of the growing enrollment at those buildings, but this was the first time it has been discussed publicly and in some detail.

He noted he has been fully supportive of the idea of a new school. Then he said he would “add a big ‘however.’”

Enota has the second smallest enrollment of the city schools. Fair Street, with the smallest enrollment, and Enota would have new buildings, Mercer said, while Gainesville Middle School is “bursting at the seams” with students.

He said the district could “use these same dollars and build a new middle school and worry about Enota in the future.”

Mercer also said the district might choose to move the sixth grade from the middle school — spreading those students among the elementary schools.

He pointed out the sixth grade has more than 600 students — larger than either Enota or Fair Street schools. “That’s a little concerning,” Mercer said.

Smith said Mercer’s comments “add a new dimension to our long saga.”

Delores Diaz, board chairwoman, emphasized the group has talked about a new school, and design options, for nearly a year. “I cannot imagine needing more time,” she said.

“All of us are frustrated. I think the whole community is frustrated because we can’t make a decision,” Diaz said.

Mitchell agreed with Diaz. “It is time to make a decision,” he said, and made his motion.

Smith’s amendments included:

• Preserving student-planted old growth trees near the flagpole in front of the school.

• Conduct an analysis of the use of pervious paving to reduce stormwater runoff.

• Do pre-construction planting in the buffer zone near the retention pond and private property on Cumberland Valley Road.

• Salvage 1,000 bricks from the school and donate them to the PTA.

• Install a “suitable” number of transom windows where classrooms would otherwise be windowless.

• Solicit a safety analysis of the plans for pedestrian and vehicle traffic from the Gainesville Police Department.

Diaz said some of the items would increase the costs of the proposed building.

When Smith asked that the items be on the next board agenda, Diaz and Creel objected. They said they thought he wanted information about those items by then, but Smith said he just wants the board to discuss the items as potential changes or additions to the building plan.

Diaz said she had talked with Mark Fockele, who helped design and build the Smartville garden, about helping with a design for the new garden. However, she said nothing definite had been discussed or completed.

Enota design approved 10-12
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