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Gainesville schools navigate transition on first day
Mundy Mill opens; Centennial, Enota begin sharing campus
Mundy Mill Academy paraprofessional Katherine Smith watches students as they learn how to walk through the school hallways Wednesday morning during the first day of classes.

Even with one new school enrolling 76 more students than anticipated and two other schools sharing the same campus, Gainesville City Schools officials said the first day of school Wednesday was smooth with only a few minor issues.

“Ultimately, we just had a great first day,” Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. “I got to visit half the classrooms in the system, and it was good just to be able to see the faces on the kids and being able to see their excitement for coming back to school.”

Williams said he spent part of the day on the campus of Centennial Arts Academy, which is sharing its campus this school year with Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy while Enota’s new school building is being constructed. He also visited Fair Street and New Holland academies.

Williams, one of four central office employees helping out on the Centennial/Enota campus, said most of the issues there were traffic-related.

“You’re always dealing with traffic concerns, and this year the No. 1 focus came down to what was happening at Centennial and Enota  in the morning and afternoon,” he said. “It was just a great job by Mr. Roach and Ms. Frierson and both of their staffs. The parents were understanding that we’re going to have some hiccups in the process. We look forward to the traffic concerns smoothing out, but overall they were much less stressful than what they thought they would be.”

Centennial Principal Leslie Frierson said she was pleased with the way the first day went with two schools on the same campus.

“Considering what probably people thought might happen, it was really smooth,” she said. “Definitely, this day couldn’t have happened without a lot of prep work, but I think we all knew there were going to be some things that we hadn’t anticipated. Everybody came in with a positive attitude and just rolled up their sleeves to get things done.”

She said there are some “tweaks” for the rest of the week, but there were “no major problems at all.”

“We had a lot of staff members who anytime they had a break during the day, they came to the front office to see where they could help and what they could do,” Frierson said. “There wasn’t a person in this building who didn’t step in to fill a void or to make things run more smoothly. The children were happy, they’re adjusting to the transitions and that’s what it’s all about.”

Enota Principal Wesley Roach said he had several parents say the day went smoother than they expected.

“That was music to my ears,” he said. “Day one, no matter where your school is, always presents certain challenges. Elementary parents like to walk their children in on day one. Considering we are pulling off this Herculean task of two schools on one campus, to get through a day one without any major problems, no major setbacks and for parents to be telling you it was a lot smoother than we thought, we think we had a successful first day. Things are only going to get better from here.”

Mundy Mill Academy, the school system’s newest school, had a total enrollment of 426 Tuesday, up from the expected 350 students for the elementary school, according to Williams.

“Things were a little tight,” Mundy Mill Principal Crystal Brown said. “At one point, we had to ask some of our staff members to help out, and we brought up extra desks when we needed them and as students came in. Some of the rooms are pretty tight right now, but everybody seemed very happy.”

Williams said officials will monitor enrollment to determine if there are any long-term needs.

“As a team, we’ll be able to sit back and look at enrollment and look at personnel needs and address the situations as they arise,” Williams said.

Brown said the teachers, staff and students “had a wonderful time” on the first day in the new school.

“They got a tour of the building, so they learned where things were located within the school and they were able within their classrooms to share some of their summer experiences, so they could get to know one another,” she said. “So, it was nice seeing the boys and girls who maybe knew their friends from another school reuniting. Not only did they get their former friends, but they also had a chance to make new friends from students who came to us from other schools.”

Brown said there were some changes that will be made, but added that all issues were minor.

“It was just little things to make our life easier in the future,” she said.

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