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Garden supporters ask building of new Enota school be delayed
Some community members are asking for a delay in the planned replacement of the school building for Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy until there has been more time to discuss preservation of the school's Smartville Garden.

More than 40 people supporting a delay in plans for a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy school building attended the Gainesville City Board of Education meeting Monday — and most were decked out in bright, yellow T-shirts with “Enota supporter” on them.

The Smartville Garden was developed at Enota in 2008 and has been the subject of controversy since the board agreed to build a new building at the site. The initial plans called for destroying the garden where it is and replanting it in different locations.

Four of the garden supporters spoke, all thanking the board members for their attention and dedication to providing a new school — and all asking for delay on the plans.

The board made no direct response to the pleas, but the new Enota building was not part of a presentation on facilities that included a timeline. That presentation included the addition at Centennial Arts Academy and the new elementary school at Mundy Mill — but nothing about Enota.

Elizabeth Burnette asked the board to “allow for collaboration before plans are set in place.” She asked that the board follow a similar procedure as that used when Fair Street School was developed.

She pointed out the process included time to provide comments and opinions that could be part of a new school, “including the features that were most important to the Fair Street community.”

Ginny Early told the board she does not believe decision-making has followed the language of the system’s charter. She called for “deep community involvement.”

David Burroughs, who termed the garden an “outdoor teaching lab,” said it should be as much a part of Enota as the “media center or classrooms.”

He pointed out he “played absolutely no role” in the creation of the garden but said “one visit” was enough to make it obvious the importance of it.

Burroughs asked for “a short pause in the process” and to include all of the stakeholders in making decisions.

Melissa Hilburn took a different tack — saying the transition plan for moving teachers, for traffic at the Centennial location where Enota students would be placed temporarily during construction of the new school and the timing of the project is “not well thought-out.”

She said moving the school twice in the middle of a school year would be a hardship on teachers and is not good timing.

She, too, asked the board “to put the brakes on and take another look at this and see what else we can come up with.”

Superintendent Wanda Creel told the audience that the “focus” for the school system would be on the addition at Centennial and on completing plans for the Mundy Mill project. Construction on the addition is expected to start next week, and the board will consider approval of a contract for the new Mundy Mill school in June.

Both the Mundy Mill school and the new Enota facility are projected to be about the same size. Mundy Mill is planned for 129,620 square feet. The Enota building is projected to be 128,600 square feet.

Creel announced at the board’s May 2 meeting that a called meeting could be expected the following week to talk about, and perhaps vote on, the Enota school project.

That meeting was not held, Creel said later, because members were not available at an agreed time.

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