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No decision on Enota school as 2 new options presented
Meeting set for Oct. 12 to discuss options
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Delores Diaz, chairwoman of the Gainesville Board of Education, talks during Monday’s meeting. The board will meet in a called meeting at noon Oct. 12 to decide between two choices for a new Enota building. - photo by RON BRIDGEMAN

A decision about a site plan for a new Enota school remains to be made after the Gainesville Board of Education meeting Monday, but that decision could be made at a called meeting Oct. 12.

The board heard about two new options and discussed the proposed new elementary school building for about 75 minutes Monday.

The two new options will be the focus of discussion at the noon Oct. 12 meeting, board members agreed.

The board has been discussing the plans for a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy since February — when controversy first erupted over the proposed destruction of the school’s Smartville garden. The first design plan for the school would lower the whole site and destroy the garden.

Controversy continued through the spring and summer as opponents of the design plan argued the board had not sought comment on plans early enough in the process. Later in the spring, opponents complained the board and superintendent misled them about plans and about meetings of the board.

The two new options both have a small playground on the Enota Drive side of the building. That issue was raised at the forum the board held at Enota Sept. 22. The playground is smaller than the one on the west side of the building and is near the special education portion of the school.

The two options to be discussed are among the least expensive. One has the parking lot for cars and the current playground “flipped.” Both options also would lower the elevation of the site about six feet and would use the dirt to fill in the current playground — making the site nearly level and destroying the current Smartville garden.

The two new options call for a new garden that would be in an L shape around the gym and near the science area of the school

The car traffic would come off of Enota Avenue and “stack” in the parking area, and the playground would be moved to the rear of the building and be angled from northwest to southeast.

That option would change one aspect of how it was presented. Traffic onto the site would remain on Enota Avenue — not Cumberland Valley Road, as suggested on the design plan.

Board member Sammy Smith refused to consider an exit onto Cumberland Valley “because of the impact on that neighborhood.”

Smith also insisted on a “compromise” to reduce the number of parking spaces on the site. The site plans called for 176 or 185. Smith suggested 150.

The option has an estimated price tag of $17,586,500, slightly more than an earlier version that would cost $17,550,000.

The other new option, and the least expensive, would provide for the smaller playground on the South Enota Drive side and would provide “angle” parking for buses, making that parking area a bit smaller.

Earlier options that would have preserved perhaps 50 percent or 80 percent of the Smartville garden were dropped because of cost.

Brett Mercer, the board vice chair, said those options would cost $700,000 to $800,000 more than the others.

“I can’t justify that to anybody who pays any tax dollars” for city schools, Mercer said.

Other board members agreed without dissent.

The called meeting was the result of board member John Filson saying he had not looked closely at the new options — and they were just presented Monday night.

Board chairwoman Delores Diaz and Superintendent Wanda Creel said the options have been on the school district’s website since the middle of last week.

Board members indicated they had not seen the plans. Filson apologized for not knowing they were available.

“This isn’t a decision whether we’re going to build it or not build it,” Filson said. That decision has been made, he noted.

The discussion now is “we’re deciding how” to build it.

Willie Mitchell agreed with Filson on the delay and suggested a meeting Oct. 10. Mercer pointed out school is out Monday and Tuesday next week.

Becky Pope, architect for the project, told the board that delays provide less time for drawings to be completed and state approval to be made. She said her new estimate for time required would allow the architects and engineers to “screech across the finish line” by February. That assumed a decision Monday, she said.

Asked if she could wait until Oct. 12, Pope said, “We’ll do what we need to do.”

Brian Daniel, president of Carroll Daniel, the construction firm, said Sept. 22 that his company needs all the design work done by February to complete the new building by August 2018.

Smith also asked about redesigning part or all of the building to avoid having classrooms with no windows.

Pope said she thought she had explained at the Sept. 22 meeting that the building could not be spread out because it would not fit on the site. She said it is conceivable to build a three-story classroom tower, but it would duplicate some space on the first floor. That would be partially unused space and would add to the cost.

She said middle or high schools could be more than two stories, but building regulations make that more difficult, and expensive, for elementary schools.                                                                                                                                                              

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