Message from the Superintendent
In January of this year, the School Board of Alachua County took the first step in what I believe will be a historic journey for our students, families, staff and the entire community.
Rather than creating a new attendance zone for Elementary School I, which is under construction in the southwest Gainesville area, the Board voted to relocate the entire student body and staff of Terwilliger Elementary to the new school for the 2021-22 school year.
There were two key reasons for this decision. One reason, although it is certainly not the most important, is financial. By moving students out of Terwilliger, we will be able to save on the cost of operating another school, which is about $1.7 million. We’ll also be able to sell the Terwilliger property and save the $11 million or so we were planning to spend on revitalizing the old and outdated campus. That money could then be put toward other facilities projects. At a time when COVID has made a tough budget situation even worse, these are significant benefits.
But even more significant is the opportunity this gives us to look at all the schools in our district--their attendance zones, their facilities and the programs they offer--and develop a long-range plan to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education. This comprehensive rezoning/review will both promote equity and reduce the need to build new schools.
Of course, such a monumental shift requires the support and engagement of all our stakeholders—families, students, staff, civic and business leaders and the general public. Everyone has a stake in our schools, and everyone should have a voice in this important process.
During the summer we plan to launch a community engagement campaign that will include public input sessions across the county. Although I believe this process is long overdue, we don’t plan to rush it. It’s too important, and we need to get it right.
Relocating Terwilliger Elementary School to the Elementary I campus rather than doing a standard rezoning for the next school year will give us the time we need to do this work effectively.
We’ll certainly be sharing more information as we get closer to beginning this process. In the meantime, all of us with Alachua County Public Schools look forward to taking this journey with the community.
Carlee Simon, Ph.D.
Alachua County Public Schools