GAINESVILLE - "Ladies and gentlemen, we are home!" With those words, Fair Street Elementary School Principal Will Campbell welcomed hundreds of people to a ribbon cutting ceremony Sunday afternoon for the newly-constructed school building in Gainesville.
Fair Street, which opened its doors in 1937, was razed early in 2012 because of a number of structural problems at the school. For the past two years, Fair Street students have shared a building with students at Woods Mill Academy. As of Wednesday, however, students and teachers will be back on the old property - but in a brand new two story building.
Second grade teacher Sue Beard was among those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house and she said while her students are excited about their new school, they are a little nervous, too. That's because Woods Mill is the only school they've every known.
"We reassured them that everything is going to be fine, we're going to be there, everything will be fine," said Beard. "We're picking up from here and we're putting it down right there."
Joy Murrell started her teaching career at Fair Street 17 years ago and she left the school when the old building was closed to students. She came back for the Sunday ceremony and said she was amazed.
"Wow!," she laughed. "It looks like the roof is going to hold, I think, for multiple years. It's a dream come true!"
The leaky roof was one structural element that led Gainesville School Board members to decide in 2009 to tear down the school and build a new facility. That couple with electrical problems and the fact that one wing of the old school was actually sinking into the ground made the decision inevitable.
After that decision in 2009, Gainesville voters approved a SPLOST referedum in 2011 that allowed for the financing of the new Fair Street Elementary.
Diego Arana, who is now in the 4th grade, remembers what the school looked like on a rainy day.
"Water would be running down the wall. We would have buckets everywhere to catch the rain," he said.
Arana and his little sister, a Fair Street first grader, spent Sunday testing out the new colorfully-upholstered chairs in the media center.
Even though Fair Street Elementary is in a brand new building, administrators have not forgotten the legacy of Fair Street. The portion of the school that houses the new gym and media center is called Heritage Hall and will be filled with elements from the school's 76 year history - everything from old yearbooks and photographs to school trophies and other mementos.
Principal Will Campbell told the crowd Sunday that all of Fair Street classrooms were packed in boxes and moved to the new building in the last couple of days. Teachers will spend Monday and Tuesday unpacking all of those boxes while their students are on fall break. Then, Wednesday morning, it will be back to the business of teaching and learning.