Even with my children’s school days behind me, I can’t help but be enthusiastic at the start of each school year. Fall here in Gainesville always brings such a feeling of fresh start and renewal, if not even the cooler temperatures that come with the change of seasons.
This year more than ever, we need that fresh start feeling, and for our K-12 students and their parents, this school year has been anticipated like never before. While the pandemic isn’t quite over with us just yet, we were able to resume in-person learning in our county and one of the really good things I’m celebrating this fall is the progress made by the county school board. Alachua by improving our District-wide Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) facilities.
Over the summer, I was delighted to witness three ribbon cuts, one for the brand new Terwilliger Elementary School and two for the major renovations – essentially resulting in new schools – at Howard Bishop Middle and Metcalfe Elementary. I think all of us who attended these events were just as excited as we knew our students would walk into these amazing facilities on the first day of school.
And while the improvements at these three schools are the most dramatic to date, teachers, staff and students across the district will notice their schools are more comfortable and better equipped to provide a better quality learning environment than they do. ‘previously.
New construction is getting attention, but the majority of the $ 125 million spent to date and the additional funds to come is being invested in our existing facilities, with classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums, auditoriums, rooftops. , new and renovated classrooms (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and the safety and security work already carried out. Idylwild Elementary is in the midst of a major overhaul, Westwood Middle is in the design stage, and more improvements large and small are on the way.
What we can all be proud of is that this massive building effort is a direct result of our community coming together to identify a critical need and decide how to address it.
You may recall that in 2016, the Greater Gainesville House convened the Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative, or i3, led by a diverse steering committee tasked with identifying the most critical infrastructure needs. urgent issues of our community, as well as the funding options available to pay. needs.
After a year of meetings with government officials and community organizations, public forums and community presentations, the House voted in favor of the November 2018 Half Cent for Schools sales tax initiative to repair, modernize and expand the capacity of our kindergarten to grade 12 schools. The foundations for success had been laid, and with much more work from CSGA and PTA’s Alachua County Council, the ballot initiative was approved by a whopping 68% of our voters.
Over the duration of the surtax – until 2031 – the district will spend almost $ 500 million, which includes the projected $ 250 million the tax will generate.
Anyone who has tackled what appeared to be a simple home improvement project can appreciate how huge this planning and coordination effort really is, and see the progress being made – despite the pandemic supply and labor shortages – of work – is the best of the good news.
More from Eric Godet:UF among the many good things to celebrate about Gainesville
But that’s not all the good news. ACPS is also working to ensure that small, diverse businesses (minority-owned, women-owned and veterans) are part of this community-wide transformation effort. Local construction companies Charles Perry Partners Inc., Scorpio Construction, and McCall Parrish Constructors documented small business and minority participation goals and targeted small businesses that have not always had the opportunity to be competitive. These efforts, along with the University of Florida’s Mentor-Protégé program, are helping our community grow.
Our children deserve nothing less than the best school facilities. Together we make it happen.
Eric Godet is President and CEO of the Grand Gainesville Chamber. He will be contributing to more Good Things Gainesville guest columns in the coming months.
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