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New Fair Street school in the works
Residents hear Gainesvilles plan for special sales tax to fund new building
Dozens fill the Fair Street IB World Academy cafeteria Thursday evening during a Fair Street community meeting concerning the planning of future renovations of the aging elementary school.

Fair Street community residents expressed excitement and a desire for appropriate growth planning at a meeting Thursday night that launched plans for a new Fair Street IB World School.

Gainesville school administrators and board members met at the school seeking input from Fair Street parents and alumni. Recent rains have forced the Gainesville Board of Education to consider replacing the building, which has a leaky roof, plumbing and electrical problems and a deteriorating foundation.

Gainesville Fire Marshal Jerome Yarborough, who attended Fair Street as a child, said that he has inspected the school for fire code compliance and agreed with Superintendent Merrianne Dyer that the school must be rebuilt.

"It’s not like this is something we want to modify. This is a need," he said. "... We need to go out into the community and say, ‘We need this school.’"

Some residents see this as an opportunity to build the school of their dreams.

"I’m just excited this area will get a new school to educate our children," Belinda Dickey said. "My grandson told me when it rains, they can’t even walk through the hallways because of all the rain barrels."

Dyer outlined a timeline for construction of the school, expected to cost some $10 million to $12 million. The board aims to fund the building with a special 1-cent sales tax to go before voters in 2011. If voters approve the tax, money could be allocated in 2012 to begin construction.

The 600 or so Fair Street students could attend school at Wood’s Mill Academy, the old middle school, during the 2011-12 school year while the old building is leveled and the new one is built. Dyer said she aims for students to move into the new Fair Street school in fall 2013.

Dyer also said that the old middle school housed 1,400 students and has plenty of room for Fair Street kids along with the various programs already housed in the building.

Dyer told residents Thursday that in the meantime, the board would like to have the site prepared and a school design in place by 2012 to begin construction as soon as funds are allocated. She said committees that include community members soon will examine new two-story schools statewide to find one that can be adapted to Fair Street’s needs. She said adapting an existing school plan would reduce architectural and design costs.

"We want to be poised and ready as soon as the SPLOST vote is passed, and we hope you will help us with that, and then we can be ready to move," she told residents.

Several residents raised concerns about how the size of the school will be determined to accommodate future enrollment growth. David Shumake, assistant superintendent of Gainesville schools, said the number of classrooms in the school will be based on the 2010 Census, with growth projected for the next 25 years.

Dyer said of the five Gainesville elementary schools, Fair Street has had the most consistent growth, with about 20 additional students attending each year for the past eight years.