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Plans in place for Fair Street to open
Ribbon cutting Oct. 13; Tentative opening set for Oct. 16
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An outdoor classroom at the new Fair Street Elementary School faces School Street and Lanier Terrace Apartments. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The “community school” is set to open next month.

The tentative opening date for the new Fair Street School building is Oct. 16, the Wednesday following the fall break.

“We’ve got about a month,” said Fair Street Principal Will Campbell. “Holy moly, that’s like tomorrow.”

Construction workers remained hard at work on both the outside and inside of the building recently, though much of the structure is in place.

Final touches, like the cleaning and waxing of the gymnasium floor, are the main priorities now. Furniture will be installed by the end of September, and the school will be open over the fall break for teachers to be able to arrange their classrooms.

A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Oct. 13 at 4 p.m., regardless if the school opens that Wednesday or not.

An open house for the community will be scheduled for a later date.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said Fair Street has always been an important part of Gainesville.

“Fair Street was always more than a school,” Dyer said. “It was the center of a community, and it was the legacy and the traditions of that community.

“So I am proud that we have a school that can carry on that symbol of those times,” she added.

Keeping with that tradition, the portion of the school including the gymnasium, media center and front hall can be closed off at any time to allow meetings and other events to take place without allowing access to the rest of the school.

Heritage Hall runs down the building from the entrance by the media center to the grand staircase. The bookcases running along each wall will showcase donations, like old yearbooks, from former Fair Street students.

“When the kids walk in they’ll walk down Heritage Hall,” Campbell said. “The historical significance of this school is important to the community and we want to remember that.”

One item on display will be a bell that fifth-grade students used to ring at the end of the school year to commemorate their completion of elementary school.

“The date on the bell is 1896, and it says New York City,” Campbell said. “We don’t know how it got here.

“We didn’t realize it said 1896,” he added. “The cord was caught up in something, and our assistant principal’s son climbed up to untangle it. That’s when we realized how old it was.”

A newer bell will be placed outside for students to ring, and the original bell will be behind a glass enclosure inside for viewing.

The two-story school will house students from kindergarten through fifth grade, with the younger two grade levels on the main floor, and the older students upstairs. Each grade level has a separate pod, with classrooms centered around an office room for the teachers.

Another feature is an outdoor classroom, resembling an amphitheater.

“We can probably fit a lot of kids there,” Campbell said. “Maybe we have some outdoor classrooms, or if like Elachee (Nature Science Center) comes they can do stuff there, or we can bring a portable mic and speakers or something right there. We’re excited about the possibilities of this as well.”

There are currently 636 students attending Fair Street in its temporary location at Wood’s Mill Academy. Campbell expects those students, plus a few more, to attend when the new building opens.

“We’re going to invite kids who live in the neighborhood to come to Fair Street,” Campbell said. “We have room for another 100 or so kids.”

He said it’s exciting to think of the possibilities of being in a brand-new building.

“It is humbling,” Campbell said. “It is humbling to know that the board and the superintendent and the community trust that I am capable of leading adults and children in this ($18 million) investment.

“Kids are important. Not bricks and buildings,” he added. “We’re moving to a new building ... (but) we still have the difficult task of teaching kids and motivating them to take care of themselves and their families when they grow up.”

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