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Gainesville schools plan shows need for more classrooms
System facing major changes
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Gainesville City Schools Board of Education meeting

When: 6 tonight
Where: Gainesville City Schools Board Office, 508 Oak St., Gainesville
Contact: 770-536-5275


The Gainesville City Schools system is facing major changes over the next few years.

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer plans to introduce the new facility plan to board members at their meeting tonight. The plan, which was completed last year, is being redone in the face of the system gaining property on Mundy Mill Road and Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park. Those were not reflected on the previous facility plan.

The facility plan reflects the need for between 36 and 42 elementary classrooms and 12 high school classrooms in the school system.

"We're expecting Fair Street (International Baccalaureate World School) to be completed December 2013," Dyer said. "That will help with the elementary need."

It will also help with the high school classrooms.

Fair Street is using several modular classrooms at Wood's Mill now that can eventually be turned back into upper grade rooms.

The elementary classrooms can also be helped by the plan to turn Wood's Mill Academy, now a grade six through 12 school, into a kindergarten through 12 school in 2014.

"It would be small, 12 to 14 classrooms (for grades kindergarten through five) with blended learning similar to the middle and high school," Dyer said.

Another tenet of the new plan is to begin the Mundy Mill school on the Wood's Mill campus. That way, teachers and administrators could go ahead and be hired and the school could begin to apply for state funding. The whole school is set to be opened sometime between 2016 and 2018.

"Mundy Mill could be a kindergarten through eighth school to relieve some crowding at Gainesville Middle," Dyer said. "In 2014 I do recommend to move all Pre-K classes to a module at Wood's Mill. That would give more elementary classes to use, two or three per school."

Dyer said she doesn't anticipate any more land being purchased by the school system between now and 2018 unless the system sees 20 percent growth again.

But that might not be far off. Jarod Anderson, director of learning support for city schools, will present a report on transition students tonight as well. These are students new to the Gainesville City Schools system.

"I was shocked. We have 720 new students," Dyer said, adding more new students could come throughout the school year.

The schools must find ways to track these students and get them the resources they need. Dyer said new students make up decent percentages of the student body: 13 percent at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy, 12.7 percent at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, 9.4 percent at Gainesville Middle School, 7.9 percent at Gainesville High School, 10 percent at Centennial Arts Academy and 10.7 percent at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.

Those numbers include kindergarteners whose families are new to the area.

"Last year when we looked at students who didn't do well on testing, it was their first year in Gainesville City Schools," Dyer said. "They identify from pre-testing how many are academically behind and how many at the high school level came in with failing classes."

What happens in this process, however, is students who do have records from Gainesville schools are immediately enrolled in whatever remedial classes or tutoring they need. The new students, because of pre-testing and the issue of waiting for school records from other districts, do not have access to tutoring, mentoring or remedial classes at the start of the school year, Dyer said.

"We want to identify them earlier and get them plugged into remedial classes at the beginning," she said.

At a previous meeting, board members asked for a report on the graduation rate demographics from Gainesville High. That will be presented at tonight's meeting.

Though the state has not yet issued official graduation rates, Dyer said the last number she heard was 87.2 percent of Gainesville High's class of 2011, including summer school students, graduated.

The "all students" category was further broken down into the ethnic and other subgroups: 94.3 percent of black, 94.5 percent of white, 78.4 percent of Hispanic, 75 percent of English Language Learners, 65.4 percent of students with disabilities and 86 percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated.

Dyer said just like in testing, students can show up in multiple groups. They are in the all students group, their ethnic group and if applicable can be in one of the others.

"We can tell which groups we need to target," Dyer said. "You don't really see that (achievement) gap being poverty there. It shows up as language and disability."