Emily Ingram was at first left speechless during a tour inside the new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy last Friday.
But the second-grade teacher soon caught the words to describe how she felt seeing the construction enter its final phase.
“To see the progress … it’s amazing how fast it’s come,” she said.
Ingram taught at the old elementary school on Enota Avenue in Gainesville before it was torn down last year, the land regraded and a new 129,000-square-foot, two-story school erected in its place. It’s scheduled to reopen in the fall.
Ingram and the dozen or more teachers touring with her have been crammed onto the Centennial Arts Academy campus as the Gainesville City School System worked to rebuild the school at a cost of approximately $19 million.
Some grades squeezed into the Centennial building while others have worked out of modular trailers.
“So we’re all kind of squished in,” Ingram said. “We’ve all gotten really close. Sometimes it’s hard. But we all know the outcome is so worth it. To see this inside here, it’s going to be well worth the wait.”
Construction workers are literally and figuratively sanding the edges now.
“They are definitely on schedule … may finish a little early,” said Adrian Niles, GCSS chief operations officer.
Workers were busy last week wiring electricity, cleaning classrooms and installing doors, for example.
But the bulk of the work is complete, and it shows in the new full gym, which will have wood floors added; the media center; performing arts space; art exhibit hall and other amenities the former school never had.
David Presnell, the school system’s field services manager who has helped oversee the construction, said asphalt still has to be poured, landscaping will come in the spring and play areas will be fully developed.
But then it’s on to moving in furniture, hanging fixtures and addressing “punch-out” items like installing wall sockets. That should all occur no later than June, Presnell said.
Several features from the old school that have sentimental or historical value have been kept and will be put in place at the new Enota school, including the original front doors and the relic mini water tower from the old school garden.
For Jacquelyn Hart, a special education teacher, the amenities available for her students at the new Enota school bring a sense of joy and relief.
For example, there are classrooms dedicated for special education students for the first time, replete with washer and dryer hookups, personal bathrooms and showers, and enough space for students to move, work and interact in positive ways.
“It’s very exciting just to see the new building,” Hart said. “The kids will love it.”
Sherrette Jackson, the school’s cafeteria manager, said she felt “overwhelmed” and “impressed” by the design and size of the new school, including the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and expanded mess hall.
“This is three times what it was,” Jackson said. “I’m waiting on everything to get set so I can really see the big picture.”
The new school is about 12,000 additional square feet in size from its predecessor, comparable to the size of the Mundy Mill Academy that opened last fall.
Jackson’s son, Xavier, a fifth-grader who attended the old Enota school, seemed to lament that he was headed to middle school next year and wouldn’t get to enjoy the perks of the new school.
“Back then it was a tight space,” he said, spreading his arms wide to show the difference now.
“He’s hoping they put sixth grade here,” Jackson, cracking a laugh, said of her son.