Alachua County Public Schools could get a major makeover if voters pass a half-cent sales tax initiative on November’s ballot.
The school district released a list of improvements for every school Thursday, which would be put into place with the money from a half-cent sales tax initiative, if it passes in November. Although the updates will be different for each school, some of the most notable changes include building new classrooms and science labs and installing new furniture, lighting and flooring, according to the list.
Depending on sales, the tax could bring in about $264 million over the span of 12 years, said Jackie Johnson, the school system spokesperson.
“It is the only way that the school district can raise enough money to do the huge amount of work that needs to be done at all of our schools,” Johnson said.
Although many of the updates will be unique to each school depending on its age, layout and what work has been done already, universal improvements to school safety and security would include limiting entrance points and installing electronic systems that can automatically lock all exterior doors from the front office, Johnson said.
“That kind of technology is something we’d like to implement in all of our schools, but we just have not had the resources,” Johnson said.
Parents were provided the handout of improvements for each school Thursday night at elementary open houses, Johnson said. Other lists will be handed out in the next few weeks when other open houses take place.
The possibility of higher-quality facilities already has some parents delighted.
Karen Gillette, the president of Eastside High School’s parent-teacher association, said she’s most excited about the prospect of new science classrooms and 53 renovated classrooms.
“I think there is always more that can be done, but it's a great start,” Gillette said. “Improvements are long overdue.”
Gainesville High School would receive one of the most extensive facelifts, according to the list. The oldest buildings would be demolished and replaced with 29 new classrooms and 13 new science labs along with renovating 38 existing classrooms. This could mean new furniture, technology and flooring.
Metcalfe Elementary School would also demolish outdated buildings and construct 22 new classrooms. Littlewood Elementary School would build 24 new classrooms and renovate 13 others, according to the list.
“There is going to be a significant amount of money spent on improving the learning environment at every single school,” Johnson said.
Johnson said these improvements are not just important for parents but also for the city.
“We’ve got great people and great programs, but what we do not have are great places of learning,” she said. “So, improving our facilities is really going to be a benefit to the entire community.”
Brandon Peebles, 21, an art coordinator for Project Makeover, paints an alligator on the sidewalk at W.A. Metcalfe Elementary School. Members and volunteers painted murals all around the school, including musical instruments in the music room, a Dr. Seuss themed kindergarten area and an ocean scene in the cafeteria.