Meeting to discuss new Enota school options
When: Noon Wednesday
Where: 508 Oak St., Gainesville
After nearly a year of controversy, the Smartville garden at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy is not part of either building plan likely to be considered today.
The Gainesville Board of Education agreed at its Oct. 3 meeting to consider two options for a new Enota school. Both options include a new garden, and the current one would be destroyed as the site is graded to nearly level.
The school board will hold a called meeting at noon today in the board room at the central school office.
A new school building for Enota has been a source of controversy all year, as supporters of the current garden sought to keep the garden as part of the new school. Plans were first announced in December 2015 after board members in August 2015 toured the city schools with an eye to renovations and/or replacements.
Both options likely to be discussed today are variations on the first site plan presented to the board in February. Both would lower the elevation of the property by nearly 6 feet.
The dirt graded from the highest point would be used to fill in the current playground to make the site more even.
The major differences in the sites include two aspects:
• The playground would be toward the rear and more parallel to the current parking lot, and vehicle traffic would come off Enota Avenue onto school property farther away from the school. The traffic would extend into the current playground area.
• The other option has the playground in its current location but filled in and an expanded parking lot more in line with the current layout. The parking lot would extend parallel to the street and would provide more space for cars to get off the street.
When the option that moves the playground was presented to the board Oct. 3, the traffic was shown coming off Cumberland Valley Road, but board member Sammy Smith strenuously objected to that idea. Architects and engineers agreed it could be re-drawn to come off Enota Avenue.
Smith still objected to the number of parking spaces included in the new plan — 185. The minimum spaces for the school is 120.
Smith asked why that number was not proposed for the new building. Architects have said the current building has 115.
The two new options would have estimated costs of $17,586,800 and $17,501,500, respectively. Both options would be about the same cost as the first proposal to the board, or about $763,200 to $848,500 less expensive than options that would preserve part of the garden.
The board generally agreed at its Oct. 3 meeting to consider the two newer proposals today.
The proposals to preserve part of the garden would require a retaining wall and fence around the current garden, and a 25-foot wide space between the garden and building, or would not lower the site as much, would put the bus traffic behind the school and vehicle traffic in front, would require a retaining wall along the back property line or would lower the parking lot about 10 feet in the rear and would require dirt from outside the site to help fill.
The latter option would preserve about 80 percent of the current garden and would cost about $18.35 million.
Brett Mercer, board vice chair, said Oct. 3 he would not vote for either of the more expensive options because the school district has other pressing building needs. He called for the board to begin discussions about how to relieve student enrollment numbers at the middle and high schools, which are more than 1,700 and nearly 2,000, respectively.