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Schools leaky roof leads to evacuation
William Campbell, left, principal at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in Gainesville, turns away a bus after the school was evacuated and students moved to other schools this morning. With Campbell is Gainesville police officer Kevin Holbrook. - photo by Tom Reed

Fair Street IB World School evacuated students Wednesday morning because of electrical problems stemming from a roof leak, but students returned to their regular classrooms in the afternoon.

Students were taken by bus to other schools in the system as a precaution said David Shumake, assistant superintendent of Gainesville schools. All of the school’s 700 students were safe.

Fair Street Principal Will Campbell said students returned to Fair Street by bus at about 2 p.m after they ate lunch at their temporary school location.

"Everything is safe. We did this for precautionary reasons," he said. "No one was ever in danger. We evacuated just to be safe."

Campbell said classes are scheduled today at Fair Street as usual. The roof leak in the electrical room has been repaired, he said.

Heavy rains early Wednesday morning leaked into one of the school’s electrical rooms, where 2,000 amps of electricity are distributed throughout the building, Shumake said.

"It was a large amount of rain that blew in here real fast," he said.

At about 8 a.m. Wednesday, teachers noticed wet carpet near the electrical room and immediately called maintenance and operations personnel to evaluate the problem. Students were evacuated from the school within five to seven minutes, said Fair Street Assistant Principal Kim Davis.

Shumake said it appears there is no water in the electrical panel.

He said rain water was seeping in through the roof and running down the back wall of the electrical room away from the panel. Electricity was shut off at the school Wednesday morning to allow electricians to inspect the panel, he said.

Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students spent their morning at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy; first- and fourth-graders at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy; second-graders at Centennial Arts Academy; third-graders at Gainesville Exploration Academy; and fifth-graders and special needs students at Gainesville Middle School.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said Fair Street students were sent home after school as usual Wednesday.

Keith Vincent, maintenance and operations manager for Gainesville schools, has informed the school board in the past year that Fair Street, along with three other system schools, needs a total roof replacement. He estimates the replacements will cost $3.1 million.

If voters approve the next SPLOST, a special 1-cent sales tax, in 2011, the school system could replace the roofs in 2012, Vincent said.

He said until then, the best option may be to reroof only the worst portions of Fair Street IB World School, Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Centennial Arts Academy and Wood’s Mill Academy, which is the old middle school building. Vincent said the old gym at Gainesville High School also needs a new roof.