A new $10 million “advanced studies building” is in the works for Gainesville High School and will help lead an overhaul of the campus’ layout while spearheading an expansion of career-oriented education at the school.
“Our No. 1 goal is to have a facility where, instructionally, we’re integrating and tying in the academics to the hands-on piece” of workforce development, said Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams. It “allows us to merge and integrate different (career) pathways with academics.”
In February 2018, the board of education approved phasing out the Ninth Grade Center, cafeteria and Career, Technical and Agricultural Education building at GHS, part of a plan to consolidate the campus for both logistical and safety reasons.
There are currently 13 separate buildings on the GHS’ sprawling campus, and school system officials hope to consolidate down to just five buildings.
Phasing out the aforementioned buildings frees up state money to spend on the advanced studies building.
The school system will begin meeting in August with representatives of the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia, as well as a hired architectural firm, to identify the needs for the advanced studies building as the design phase gets underway.
These meetings will also assist school system officials in developing a comprehensive, multi-year plan to revamp the entire high school campus.
Williams said he hopes to begin construction on the advanced studies building in spring 2020, with a completion and opening date set for the fall of 2021.
“It’s not as simple as we just pick up and move,” Williams said.
The building will likely be located at the high school’s entrance from John W. Morrow Jr Parkway/Rainey Street.
Williams said the new building will be equipped in a way that “responds to our workforce community,” and prepares students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
It’s an especially important model for students who may not attend a traditional four-year liberal arts college, but who also want to continue their education in a specific trade or skill rather than immediately joining the labor force after graduation.
Sarah Bell, deputy superintendent, said Gainesville High offers many career pathways for study, “but our most highly requested introductory courses include Food, Nutrition and Wellness; Introduction to Healthcare; and Industry Fundamentals (a first course in the Construction pathway).”
The advanced studies building will broaden and deepen the curriculum for such pathways, and corresponds with other new initiatives the school system is undertaking.
In the past two years, for example, school officials have been implementing “wraparound services” for students, including expanding mental health counseling, adding a clothing closet and food pantry inside schools, and developing new academic mentors.
Moreover, a new Student Success Center will open on the Gainesville High campus in the 2019-20 school year, and will provide additional college and career activities.
Gainesville City Schools is also implementing a nearly $3 million literacy grant program.
“As far as how all of these pieces fit together, expanding and enhancing (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) programming are key ways to address the needs of the whole child,” Bell said. “Career development, support with post-secondary options, and use of YouScience (an online portal that provides students with career guidance by identifying their interests and talents) will all be important areas of focus for the student center.”
“Our ultimate goal is to provide the academic and wraparound supports in order to prepare students to be productive members of the community,” Bell added. “So, we hope that our recent efforts really enhance the great things that we already have in place.”