Eighth-grader Tahira Ricks misses the old Gainesville Middle School, but not so much that she dismisses the new school next to the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center.
“This school is really big,” Ricks said. “It has a bunch of computer labs and a bunch of computers in (them). It’s just so awesome.”
Her mother, Angela Ricks, nodded in agreement.
“I think it’s good for the kids, because they’ve got so much more space. ... This is good,” she said, as she and her daughter began their walk around the school as part of a communitywide open house Sunday.
Gainesville school system officials, along with elected officials and others, such as the architects, celebrated the $33 million school’s opening with a ribbon-cutting in front of the school, which opened for the first day of classes on Aug. 11.
“I know you’re excited just like we are over this new facility ... that we’ve all come to build for our children,” said David Syfan, chairman of the Gainesville Board of Education.
“I know it will be a great facility and the children will have a great educational experience here.”
Visitors were able to tour classrooms, pick up lemonade and cookies from the cafeteria, and watch dancers and hear the GMS band play in the gymnasium.
“The school is amazing, seeing the changes in the library, computers ... everything,” said Jonathan Rosario, a counselor in the YMCA after-school program.
A 2000 Gainesville High School graduate, he attended the old middle school.
Visitors also browsed through one of several booths set up around the school, including one introducing an effort to start up the GMS Memory Garden.
The 1,300-student school is trying to create a landscaped area off the parking lot and near the Frances Meadows center.
People can buy a plant in honor or memory of a teacher, child, administrator or friend “and take part in growing a new tradition and supporting our wonderful school,” according to a flier handed out at the booth.
The school opening committee developed the idea “to do something special as a permanent reminder of this momentous occasion,” said Doug Carter, who is with the committee.
Prices vary from $5 for bulbs to $40 for plants, he said.
“Even the students are going to get involved with helping in the maintenance and planning of it,” Carter said. “It’s something we see as being a great reminder in years to come.”