“Ladies and gentlemen, we are home.”
As Fair Street School Principal William Campbell spoke those words, sun broke through the clouds as hundreds gathered in front of the new building Sunday.
The former Fair Street building, which opened in 1936, was torn down two years ago to make way for the new, state-of-the-art building. In the meantime, students have been housed at Wood’s Mill Academy.
When they return from fall break Wednesday, they will be in their new elementary school.
Community ownership was emphasized Sunday, with people wearing red ribbons stating “This is MY school.” Young students handed out programs for the day’s events. “Welcome to the new Fair Street,” they said to each person walking up to the front of the building.
Children played on the grass, running up and peeking inside the building while alumnus Charles Morrow and former teacher Helen Caudle spoke, sharing their experiences with the school.
“What do you have today?” Morrow asked. “One of the most marvelous schools in the United States of America.”
Campbell released balloons, each one representing a former principal of the school. Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, a former teacher and principal of the school, tilted her head back to watch her balloon sail into the sky.
It was a surprise for Dyer when the board of education declared an area inside the school The Merrianne Dyer Community Resource Center.
“Thank you very much,” she said. “This occasion ... belongs to all of us who love Fair Street. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.”
Campbell, Fair Street Assistant Principal Kim Davis, school board members, Morrow and Caudle then joined to cut the ceremonial ribbon. The crowd pushed forward, holding up smartphones and cameras to get that once-in-a-lifetime photo.
And then, the ceremony was over. The doors opened, and the hallways of the new school were suddenly full of children, parents, alumni and other stakeholders, all peering into rooms and becoming acclimated to the new surroundings.
Over the past two days, 3,307 boxes have been moved into the building. Rooms were still put together somewhat haphazardly; Campbell has previously said the school will be open today and Tuesday for teachers to set up their classrooms.
Heritage Hall, the main hallway into the school lined with cases to display pieces of the school’s history, was mostly empty, with the exception of a few yearbook covers and a stuffed tiger named Tyrone.
“This is an amazing and historic day,” Campbell said.