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Gainesville to break ground on new Fair Street School
Original building was constructed in 1936
Students leave Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School on the last day of classes last spring. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Fair Street IB World School groundbreaking

When: 11 a.m. today
Where: Fair Street School, 695 Fair St., Gainesville
Contact: Gainesville City Schools Board Office 770-536-5275

Today acknowledges the life and mission of Martin Luther King Jr.

For Gainesville City Schools, however, today marks another event: a new chapter in the history of Fair Street School.

School board officials are set to break ground on the new school this morning.

"The Board of Education wanted to have it on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service as a symbolic gesture to the pioneers of education for black children in Gainesville and Hall County," Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "Jan. 26 is the building tear-down. The board really wanted to go ahead and have it on this day. We knew it'd be close to (demolition) so we wanted to go ahead and do it."

The ceremony will include speeches by Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, Fair Street fourth-grader Quincy Holcomb and Deborah Mack, a former Hall County Commissioner and community volunteer who was instrumental in getting the Fair Street special local option sales tax passed.

The architects of the new building will also be recognized, as will Assistant Superintendent David Shumake and Board Chairman Willie Mitchell, a Fair Street alumnus.

"I'm going to be talking about Martin Luther King and how he led blacks in the Civil Rights Movement and how he influenced us," Quincy, 9, said. "He influenced me by if you try something and it's hard, don't give up, just keep going."

Mack is also a member of the Fair Street-Butler High Alumni Association.

"I'm going to talk about how Fair Street School plays in the community. It's a big part of the community and it has been all of my life," she said. "It's just sacred."

Fair Street School was built in 1936 after the tornado damaged its predecessor, Summer Hill High School. The building served all grades for black children in Hall County, Gainesville City and Lumpkin County.

When E.E. Butler High School was built in the early 1960s, Fair Street became an elementary school. That changed again in 1969 after integration, and Fair Street was just for sixth- and seventh-graders.

In 1981, it housed grades three through five, and in 1987, just fourth and fifth. By 2003, Fair Street had reverted back to a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school, and in 2007 it officially became Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.

But despite the curriculum moving forward, the 75-year-old building was showing its age.

In March 2011, the school had had enough. Led by the efforts of the school system, Dunlap and Mack, the community passed the education SPLOST that would fund a demolition and complete rebuilding of the historic building.

Quincy's family knows this history well. He and his siblings are fourth-generation Fair Street students. Though he's now at the school's new location on the Wood's Mill Academy campus and will graduate the school before the new building is done, he's excited to be a part of the transition.

"People are just very excited about it and are anxious to get the demolition done and continue on," Dyer said.

The new Fair Street, set to be completed by December 2013, will include community areas just as the original school did. The bell that fifth-graders traditionally ring on the last day of school will have its own tower, and there will be a memorabilia hall chronicling the history of Fair Street and the schools that have gone before it.

"I'm glad to see it's going to remain in the community. It was a close-knit community. The parents and everyone supported the school," Mack said. "I just hope it will bring about a renewed partnership with the community and the school. Just like the alma mater said, ‘We pledge our lives to the school.' That's our roots, that's how we got started."


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