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Middle school set for debut Aug. 11
Shelia Farquhar, lead technology specialist for the Gainesville City School System, works in one of the computer labs in the new Gainesville Middle School. - photo by Tom Reed

More than 1,300 Gainesville Middle School students will report to a sparkling new school on Aug. 11.

The new, two-story building off Jesse Jewell Parkway features modern classrooms, state-of-the-art instructional technology and impressive athletic facilities.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the new middle school came with a nearly $33 million price tag that was funded by a special one-cent local sales tax. The new school, she said, was sorely needed.

The Gainesville system’s middle school population had long outgrown the facilities of the old Gainesville Middle School building located on Wood’s Mill Road. That school was built for about 800 students, and about 30 modular classrooms were needed to accommodate the overflow from the building, she said.

“Even with the modular spaces, we were just way overcrowded,” Dyer said.

And the building itself needs roof repairs. But Dyer said the old middle school, renamed Wood’s Mill Academy, will house several district programs including Gainesville High’s JROTC unit, the system’s day care service and the Alpine Regional Educational Services Agency.

“With some renovation and some work, it will be a good service building,” she said of Wood’s Mill.

Dyer said four of Gainesville’s seven schools are now housed in relatively new buildings.

David Shumake, assistant superintendent of Gainesville schools, said the opening of the new middle school propels the Gainesville school system into a new era.

“We felt like in order to improve our school district, it provided us an opportunity to enhance and enrich the academic background of our kids,” he said. “So this property became available and we felt like we needed this structure for the future of Gainesville City Schools.”

The new school has a 1,500-student capacity and 94 classrooms, a media center and seven computer labs filled with new Macintosh computers, Shumake said. He said each classroom is equipped with a projector that showcases teachers’ notes on interactive slates.

And the energy-efficient school has more than 300 computers, all outfitted with Macintosh and Windows applications to provide students learning opportunities on both systems.

Gainesville Middle School Principal Ken Martin said some of the greatest features of the school are its well-equipped science labs and athletic facilities.

The school has a spectacular gymnasium with giant skylights, allowing the district to save on energy costs. Shumake said he estimates the new middle school will use 20 percent less energy than the old middle school building.

The campus also has an all-purpose field for football, lacrosse and soccer as well as a softball field and a baseball field behind the school.

In addition, Shumake said the middle school has an intergovernmental agreement with the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center adjacent to the new school.

“We’re working out for our physical education classes to be able to utilize the facility during the day, specifically for our sixth-graders to work on swimming lessons since the lake is such a vital part of our community,” he said.

Shumake said 16 movers spent about 800 man hours this month hauling furniture from the old middle school to the new middle school.